Value of passports
ALTHOUGH the Hong Kong Alliance of Chinese and Expatriates was happy to learn that China and Britain had agreed that the BNO passport will continue to be used as a valid travel document after 1997, the need still remains for the two governments to work together to promote the BNO passport among foreign countries.
The BNO passport, issued and renewed by the British Government, is a legally valid document for life.
However, in practice, the it may not be accepted by other countries, since it is issued by the British Government which will no longer be the sovereign state after 1997.
Foreign countries are concerned that BNO passport holders, who are ''permanent residents with the right of abode in Hong Kong'', may not be able to return to Hong Kong.
Thus, the concern is not over the legal status of the travel document but its acceptability by other countries.
Their willingness to continue to grant visa exemptions to BNO passport-holders is also doubtful, since most of the 71 countries now offering such exemptions have reservations about its future status.
The longest lifespan of the BNO passport is up to June 30, 2007.
Whether it will be renewed after this date depends on various factors, one of which being the acceptance of the SAR passport by countries the world over.
While there are around three million Hong Kong people who are eligible for the BNO passport, there are as many as six million who qualify for the SAR passport. Although China has agreed to allow future SAR residents to hold both passports, the usefulness of the SAR passport far exceeds that of the BNO passport.
We, therefore, urge the British Government to take the lead in granting visa exemption to SAR passport holders, and promote the SAR passport among its member European Community countries, persuading them to grant visa exemptions to SAR passport holders.
At the same time, we also hope that a satisfactory solution will be worked out between China and Hong Kong in promoting both the BNO and SAR passports.
GUY LAM Chairman Hong Kong Alliance of Chinese and Expatriates