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dpa/GNA – China plans to stop recognizing British-issued passports for Hong Kong citizens, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Friday, amid a dispute between Beijing and London about a security law implemented last year.

China will no longer recognize the passports as travel documents or proof of identity as of Sunday and reserves the right to take further action, the spokesperson said.

Currently, more than 400,000 Hong Kong residents have British National Overseas (BNO) status, enabling them to travel to Britain without complications.

However, in response to the controversial security law, Britain announced regulations to allow 5.4 million Hong Kongers to obtain five-year residency permits which would enable them to become naturalized citizens.

Earlier this month, Britain’s foreign secretary said China had misled the world about the purpose of the law, which was being used to crush dissent and opposing political views, he said.

Britain’s attempt to turn a large number of Hong Kongers into “second-class British citizens” has completely altered the two sides’ original understanding of BNO, Beijing ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Friday.

London’s move seriously violates China’s sovereignty and grossly interferes in China and Hong Kong’s internal affairs, he said.

Beijing’s statement came hours after London announced it would accept applications under the new rules as of Sunday.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Although millions of Hong Kong residents were promised freedom and autonomy when sovereignty was transferred, China’s security organs now carry out investigations and exercise jurisdiction related to cases there.

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