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China said on Friday that it would not recognise the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid travel document from Jan. 31, just as Britain offered a path to citizenship to millions of Hong Kong people eligible for it.

"Britain is trying to turn large numbers of Hong Kong people into second-class British citizens. This has completely changed the original nature of BNO," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing.

Beijing's imposition of a national security law in the former British colony in June last year prompted Britain to offer refuge to almost 3 million Hong Kong residents eligible for the BNO passport from Jan. 31.

The scheme, first announced last year, opens on Sunday and allows those with "British National (Overseas)" status to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for citizenship.

BN(O) is a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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