Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

The story of how British citizenship developed and why this matters for questions of race, migration and belonging in 'Global Britain'

Hosted and produced by Michaela Benson.

Cover Art: George Kalivis

Production and post-production: Art of Podcast 

Jan 7, 2022


When National Security Law was imposed in Hong Kong SAR in 2020, the UK government responded by opening up a bespoke visa scheme to facilitate the migration and settlement of Hong Kongers in the UK. Upheld by the UK’s Home Office as evidence of the UK’s ‘fair and generous’ approach to immigration, on the surface it seems like an exception to the Hostile Environment. But what if all was not as it seems?  

In this episode, we explore the back story to this new visa, to ask the question what can the Hong Kong BN(O) visa tell us about Britain’s borders past and present? Presenter Michaela Benson uncovers how Britain’s present-day relationship to the people of Hong Kong sits in a longer history through which the Hong Kongers had their rights eroded. George Kalivis heads into the archives to uncover how the British government responded to earlier political uprisings in Hong Kong, the 1989 protests about the Tiananmen Square massacres. And they are joined by John Vassiliou, an immigration and nationality lawyer at Shepherd and Wedderburn, who explains more about the bespoke HK BN(O) visa scheme and why it means that this is pegged to a so-called ‘useless citizenship’ status.  

You can access the full transcripts for each episode over on the Rebordering Britain and Britons after Brexit website 


In this episode we cover …  

  • Britain’s relationship to people of Hong Kong from the 1960s onwards 
  • The Hong Kong BN(O) visa  
  • Useless citizenships 


When we think of a typical citizen of a country they usually have certain benefits like I described—and the main one is the right to live there—and a BN(O) citizen does not.  They are not on their own, there are another four types of British citizenship status that are in a similar category to this and they’ve generally been described by courts as useless citizenship statuses in the past.  

 — John Vassiliou  

Where can you find out more about the topics in today’s episode? 

You can find out more about John and his work here. He tweets @john_vassiliou1. 

Read his informative pieces on the Free Movement Blog about the HK BN(O) visa including this overview of the scheme and this comment on Hong Kongers applying for political asylum in the UK. 

Read Michaela’s thoughts about what the case of the Hong Kongers in British nationality legislation can tell us about the racialised politics of belonging in Britain. Here’s the full piece and a blogpost with the key points if you are short on time …  

We also want to give some love to this fantastic piece by Jun Pang about how the Hong Kongers in the UK are positioned as ‘good migrants’ and why this matters in the context of the new immigration plan.   

Call to action 

Follow the podcast on all major podcasting platforms or through our RSS Feed 

To find out more about Who do we think we are?, including news, events and resources, follow us on TwitterInstagram or Facebook