Good Magazine recently released a ranking of “The Countries With The Most Powerful Passports”. Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom predictably topped the lists, with other European neighbours and the US trailing closely behind.
The list, however, is based on only a single rubric: the number of national borders that passport-holders can cross visa-free. It does not take into account the size of these countries nor their respective populations.
In terms of free access to both numbers of people and landmass, it is in fact the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport, ranked 14th by Good, that should be crowned the planet’s most powerful.
Although the HKSAR passport grants one free access to only 152 countries, these together comprise a total of 79.5 million square kilometres and include 3.8 billion of the world’s people. By comparison, Finland and Sweden’s 173 free access countries comprise only 52 million square kilometres with just 2.1 billion people.
After the handover to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong continued to maintain its own passport separate from that of the standard PRC issue. Replacing the erstwhile British National (Overseas) passport, the HKSAR passport inherited much of the privileges afforded to UK passport holders: free access to commonwealth nations such as Canada and New Zealand as well as the European Schengen area.
But that’s not all: the HKSAR passport also has advantages of a Chinese passport. As well as unfettered access to mainland China via the “Home Return Permit” available to nearly all passport-holders, Hongkongers also enjoy visa-free access to places like Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
Eligibility for the US visa-waiver programme would have widened Hong Kong’s lead even further, but the promised bill to finally grant Hongkongers free access to American shores was suddenly derailed when the territory harboured NSA leaker Edward Snowden. In what some regard as an act of punishment, Hong Kong residents applying for US visas are still treated the same as mainland Chinese applicants.
With visa-free access to both the People’s Republic as well as the States, the Singaporean passport also beats the Scandinavian opposition with unfettered access to 63.5 million square kilometres and nearly 3.7 billion people.
[Image via wikimedia.org]
By Ryan Kilpatrick