Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Big BN(O) Escape

By Chip Tsao | published Dec 24, 2009

Gossips were suggesting on local website forums earlier this month that holders of British National (Overseas) passports (BNO) had been granted permanent residence by a few European governments.

The theory goes like this: the BNO passport issued by the UK government, although a second-rate travel document tailor-made for 3.5 million Hongkongers born in the former colony before 1997, is considered equal to that of a full UK citizen because the EU views all human rights under the umbrella of “British nationals,” whether “overseas” or not, as the same.

A few lucky ones from Hong Kong, rumour also has it, are bouncing off the walls already after having sneaked into remote towns in some Scandinavian countries as “British citizens” with their BNO passports, as immigration officers there snubbed the British government by not recognizing its second-class status.

But the good news didn’t last long. Not until the story was published in a Hong Kong Chinese newspaper, calling for both British and EU authorities to “clarify” the status of BNO passport holders, did an EU spokesman officially deny the existence of such a loophole, re-affirming that it would be a fantasy for Hongkongers to enter Europe as freely as crossing Victoria Harbour from, say, Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui.

What a disappointment. Whether it was true, Hongkongers have a few important lessons to learn. The first one is to be better informed about the world. Europe is infested with too many immigrants already—not least the Chinese in all EU member-states. It would be a bit idiotic to assume that, after the Swiss have held a referendum to veto the building of an Islamic tower on their land, Europeans would embrace, with a hospitable joy, more Chinese restaurants, foot massage parlors and shoe and T-shirt factories in Milan or a few Chinatowns under Les Alps buzzing with red lanterns and lion-dancers celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Second, if someone in Hong Kong has been so clever as to have discovered the loophole like a smart mouse under the cellar spotting a crack in the floorboard, instead of trumpeting the good news around, shouldn’t he keep his lip buttoned? Getting it published in a local paper is an open invitation for the housewife in the kitchen to repair the floorboard to keep her cheese safe.

And good luck to the few who’ve allegedly made it. Yes, they’ve watched plenty of Tom and Jerry and learned to be smart enough to beat to the punch. They’ll pack up and come back. There’s more than just cheese here. There’s a whole banquet in Hong Kong or across the border in China.

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