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Tea Leaves

Two passports, one citizenship

Dual system highlights real dilemma for Hong Kong’s younger generation

Both passports have been a source of trouble and frustration for me. (Photo by Nikki Sun)

I have two passports, but only one citizenship-- so do many who lived under British colonial rule in Hong Kong. I am among the 350,000 British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders in the city, who have always treated the red booklet as just another travel document. It would be generous to call it a “second-class passport”: although its holders are entitled to a six-month visa-free stay in the U.K. and consular assistance, it is a long way from British citizenship.

For years I have had to explain to immigration officers around the globe why my return flight is not London-bound, and why I do not sound British. That is still better than the experiences I had using my Hong Kong passport -- for example when I was almost denied entry to Croatia because officers mistook it for a Chinese passport. When they pointed to the Chinese national flag on the cover, I struggled to explain the difference between Hong Kong and China.

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