Given the recent political situation, there has been renewed interest in opening a path to citizenship for British Nationals (Overseas). The BN(O) status was conferred on some former BDTCs (individuals with British nationality by virtue of their connection to Hong Kong) who registered between 1987 and 1997.
According to Wikipedia, some people advocated granting full British citizenship to those individuals at the time when Hong Kong was handed over to China, but one reason why this did not occur is that it was considered to violate treaty obligations:
Despite petitions from Governors David Wilson and Chris Patten asking for full citizenship to be conferred on the colony's residents, Parliament ultimately refused to grant all Hongkongers right of abode in the United Kingdom, citing difficulty in absorbing a large number of new citizens and that doing so would contradict the Joint Declaration. Instead, it offered citizenship to only 50,000 qualified residents and their dependents, through the British Nationality Selection Scheme. Because many departing residents were well-educated and held critical positions in medicine, finance, and engineering, the intention of the plan was to convince people within this professional core of Hong Kong's economy to remain in the territory after 1997. This limited grant of citizenship, along with the fact that the provision for nationality without UK right of abode was included in a memorandum of the Joint Declaration and not in the treaty text, has been used by proponents for conferring citizenship on BN(O)s to argue that granting it would not be a violation of that agreement. On the other hand, the Chinese government considers even these restricted grants to be a breach of the treaty and specifically disregards the British citizenship of those who obtained it under the Selection Scheme.
Here are my questions:
- What treaty provisions does China argue would be violated by granting full British citizenship to BDTCs, and why? (After all, granting British citizenship to those individuals would not have required China to recognize it. China would still be able to treat such individuals as solely Chinese nationals, just as they currently do with Hong Kongers who hold a second nationality.)
- Would these treaty provisions be relevant to a blanket grant of British citizenship to BN(O)s if it were to occur today (in 2020)?
- BN(O)s are still considered to have British nationality, but without a right of abode in the UK. If the UK could create this special status without violating their treaty obligations, why would China consider it a treaty violation to grant those individuals a status that does entail the right of abode in the UK? In other words, what right does China believe it has, due to treaties with the UK, to specifically prevent the UK from granting a right of abode in the UK to people who used to hold the status of BDTC?
- Would the proposal referenced in the linked article, namely to make BN(O)s eligible for long-term residence permits in the UK, with a path to citizenship, also be considered to violate treaty obligations?