Hong Kong residents renewed or applied for British National (Overseas) passports in record numbers last year as anti-government protests erupted in the city, according to the South China Morning Post.
The 154,218 BNO passports issued in 2019 is an eightfold jump from the year earlier, the newspaper reported, citing British government data. The authority also recorded 32,813 renewals by the end of June this year, the second-highest number since 2006, the Post said.
The identity document was a product of the end of the British colonial era, made to recognise Hong Kong residents of the time as overseas British nationals, though it only gave holders the right to visit the country for as long as six months. In July, the UK government upgraded the status of BNO passport holders to offer them a path to UK citizenship in response to the Chinese government’s introduction of the national security law.
The political unrest last year and the introduction of the security legislation have rompted many Hong Kong residents to plan an exit from the city in search of stability and freedom.