Michael Howard, who is expected to announce the climb- down in a Commons written answer, is responding to pressure from Chris Patten, the Governor of Hong Kong, and the mainly Indian and Pakistani citizens of the colony who feared they would be stateless when the handover takes place in June this year.
The Prime Minister promised a guarantee of resettlement in Britain if they came under pressure to leave Hong Kong, when he visited the colony last year. Ministerial sources said last night that the guarantee of British passport rights is extra security for the promises made by the Prime Minister.
They hold passports as British Dependent Territory Citizens and would be eligible for British National Overseas status but are not nationals of other countries, such as India or Pakistan. Many fear they would be subject to discrimination by the Chinese, who refuse to give them Chinese citizenship.
The Government had been reluctant to act over the plight of the non-Chinese community in Hong Kong, until Mr Patten intervened. The group will also include descendants of White Russians who fled to Hong Kong to escape the Russian revolution.
Migrant groups in Britain have campaigned for the non-Chinese community to be given British passports, and ministers clearly decided that it would send the wrong signals to the Asian community in Britain, if they were allowed to be made stateless. Mr Major made an extensive tour of the Indian sub-continent during the Christmas recess as part of his efforts to underline his commitment to Asians in Britain, including many businessmen who support the Tory party.Reuse content