Hong Kong citizens will be able to apply for a new visa, from Sunday, Jan. 31, that will open the door for them to become British citizens. The U.K. initiative came after the repressive advance of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over its former colony. The CCP threatened not to recognize the British visa.

The UK, after receiving threats from the CCP, assuring that it will not recognize the BNO passports (British National ‘foreign’ passport) as a valid travel document for Hong Kong citizens, announced that it will stand firm in its proposal and as of Sunday Hong Kong citizens will be able to apply for their special visa, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Hong Kong immigration officials, following orders from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), instructed airlines on Friday night not to accept BN(O) passports as travel documents, a source with direct knowledge of the order told SCMP.

Airlines were reminded to follow the new rules, otherwise they would be risking breaching Section 40 of the Immigration Ordinance, which regulates the documentation of passengers arriving in Hong Kong without valid travel documents.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said, “We have made it clear that we will not look the other way when it comes to Hong Kong people with British national status (overseas) who now have the option of coming to live, work, and study in the UK.”

The CCP’s statement that it would no longer recognize the BN(O) passport as travel or identification documents as of Sunday was its first official act in retaliation against the British policy of opening its doors for the entry of Hong Kong citizens, especially those persecuted by the CCP after imposing the new national security law, which successfully aimed at destroying the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens.

Following statements by CCP authorities announcing that from Sunday the above passports would no longer be recognized, in a separate statement, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by CCP’s decision to stop recognizing BN(O) passports.

Britain and the CCP have been arguing for months over the imposition of the national security law, which London and Washington (during the Trump administration) claimed was an attempt to silence dissent in Hong Kong especially after the huge pro-democracy protests in 2019 and 2020.

Following the enactment of the law in June last year, the UK offered safe haven to nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents eligible for the BN(O) passport as of Jan. 31.

According to Reuters, UK government forecasts say the new visa could initially attract more than 300,000 people and their immediate families. After entering on a BN(O) passport, they will have permission to stay, live, study, and work in Great Britain for five years and eventually apply for permanent citizenship.

“I am immensely proud to have brought this new route for Hong Kong citizens to live, work, and make their home in our country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.