After governor Murray MacLehose met Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979, the British government changed its nationality act in 1981
to avoid an influx of refugees from its soon to be former colony: Hongkongers became British Dependent Territories Citizens, and later came to hold BN(O) passports.
The issue stole the international limelight in 1989 when legislator Lee Wing-tat
scolded then British foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe, taking offence at Britain’s neglect
of its moral responsibility to the people of Hong Kong. The Chinese side placidly dismissed the BN(O) passport as merely a travel document.
Throughout the Sino-British negotiations, the people of Hong Kong were mere onlookers. Then came wave after wave of emigration to countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia, and to Europe. But Hong Kong survived and prospered and since then, Britain has had a change of heart, offering Hongkongers a new citizenship route
in response to the new national security law
This kills two birds with one stone. Britain gains the moral high ground in providing an exit for Hongkongers while making an estimated net gain of billions of dollars
amid the economic uncertainty of Brexit. It is perfect timing.
By now declaring
the BN(O) passport an invalid travel document, China aims to put an end to the flight of both capital and talent. Most importantly, China faces the embarrassment of a mass Hong Kong exodus. From all appearances, Hong Kong has been dogged by misfortune.
But l believe that Hong Kong is a blessed land. There is a Chinese saying that good fortune may turn ill even as ill fortune may turn out to be good (褔兮禍所倚, 禍兮福所伏). Perhaps, after Hong Kong’s many turns of bad luck, its good fortune is just round the corner.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has been encouraging
Hong Kong’s young people to work in the Greater Bay Area; her message is loud and clear. Yet our young people are queuing up to leave for Great Britain.
For a city that prides itself on upholding the laissez faire principle, we should let the young people make their own choice: GBA or GB. If we want them to stay, the Hong Kong government has to win back the hearts of its people. But how?
Lo Wai Kong, Lai Chi Kok