Lam denies Exco talks on BNO amid push for dual nationality ban

Top News | Sophie Hui 13 Jan 2021

Banning dual nationality was not discussed at the Executive Council or government levels, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said.

Lam made the clarification yesterday after Executive Councilor Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee called for Beijing to ban Hongkongers from holding British National Overseas and SAR passports at the same time.

Ip wrote in a local newspaper Sunday that Beijing should set a deadline for locals to decide whether to keep their foreign citizenship, as those who have left are "giving up on Hong Kong," and choose between China and Britain.

"The proposal was raised by a pro-establishment member of Exco, but I don't want people to misunderstand that Exco has discussed this topic," Lam said ahead of the cabinet meeting.

"Exco did not discuss it, and the SAR government did not propose any measures regarding the issue" she said.

Lam said the issue of nationality is "a sensitive matter" and that Beijing and London had a consensus over the handling of BNO passports, but it is only reasonable for one side to take action if the other deviated from the original agreement.

A consensus was reached before the handover whereby BNO passports will be considered a travel document that did not offer the right of abode.

But the UK last year created a route to citizenship for locals eligible for BNO status, allowing them to remain in the UK for six years and eventually become citizens.

"If someone has now unilaterally deviated from this consensus, it would be reasonable for the other side to take action. But so far, I am not aware of any specific proposal being discussed," she said.

Architectural, surveying, planning and landscape lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen said he would consider giving up his right of abode in Britain if it hinders him from serving here, but there is no need to do this now.

On oath taking, Lam said district councilors and Election Committee members, who decide who the city's leader will be, should be regarded as public officers and prioritized in pledging allegiance to the Basic Law.

Although district councils have no real political power, they are still an important organization, Lam said, and the 1,200-strong Election Committee has even more responsibility, as it selects the chief executive, she said.

Lam said amending the oath-taking law will be carried out, and hoped the proposed amendment bill would be tabled for scrutiny by lawmakers as soon as possible.

In a document to lawmakers, the Civil Service Bureau said if civil servants breach the oath or declaration, the government will handle it according to the rules.

In determining punishment, it will take into consideration the circumstances, nature and gravity of the case, certainly the fact that the misconduct is committed even though a civil servant has taken an oath or signed a declaration to acknowledge the expectations and responsibilities brought by the official position on him or her.

Lam also criticized overseas governments of having double standards when it comes to unrest in Hong Kong and in their own country, referring to the January 6 siege of the US Capitol by pro-Trump mobs.

"The first double standard is the importance of national security. Why should Hong Kong not have safeguards on national security when jurisdictions all over the world have a series of legislation to safeguard their own national security? Are they suggesting that the safety of Hong Kong people is of lesser significance and importance to the people of Hong Kong than an American citizen in American society?" Lam said.

Some US commentators or politicians condoned or encouraged violence and riots amid the social unrest in Hong Kong from June 2019 under "the guise of democracy," she said, but "when the same thing seemed to happen in their own country, they immediately took a very different approach to condemn the violence, and some said that this was verging on sedition in American society."

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