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Path to British citizenship opens for hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers

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This file picture taken on March 18, 1997 exhibits folks queueing to use for British Nationwide (Abroad) passport, or “BNO”, outdoors Hong Kong’s Immigration Division constructing within the Wanchai district of Hong Kong earlier than the handover to China on June 30, 1997 over nervousness concerning the metropolis’s future. — AFP
  • British Nationwide (Abroad) passport holders and their dependents can apply on-line for a visa permitting them to dwell and work within the UK
  • Such folks can then apply for citizenship after 5 years
  • China reacts with fury, says it’s going to now not recognise the passports as a reputable journey or ID doc

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers are being provided a pathway to British citizenship and the possibility to flee what’s being termed a crackdown on dissent within the metropolis.

Anybody with a British Nationwide (Abroad) passport and their dependents can now apply on-line for a visa permitting them to dwell and work in the UK. After 5 years, they will apply for citizenship.

The immigration scheme is a response to Beijing’s resolution final yr to impose a sweeping nationwide safety legislation on Hong Kong to snuff out the massive and sometimes violent democracy protests.

Britain has accused China of tearing up its promise forward of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover that the monetary hub would preserve key liberties and autonomy for 50 years, and has argued it has an ethical responsibility to guard its former topics.

“We have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned of the scheme this week.

The web site for visa purposes went on-line at 5pm in Hong Kong (0900 GMT).

China has reacted with fury to the visa supply, asserting that it might now not recognise the passports as a reputable journey or ID doc.

The transfer was largely symbolic as Hong Kongers have a tendency to make use of their very own passports or ID playing cards to depart the town.

However Beijing mentioned it was ready to take “further measures”, elevating fears authorities would possibly attempt to cease Hong Kongers from leaving for Britain.

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On Sunday, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Workplace of China’s State Council mentioned it strongly condemned the British for violating its promise to not give BN(O) passport holders proper of residence.

“This is a flagrant offense of China’s sovereignty, and we firmly oppose it,” it mentioned.

The workplace claimed the UK was beautifying its colonial historical past and referred to as this “a shameless logic of bandits’, seriously hurting the feelings of the Chinese”.

In a commentary on Sunday, China’s state-run Xinhua information company accused Britain of getting a “colonial mentality”.

Purposes soar

It’s not clear what number of Hong Kongers will take up the supply — particularly because the coronavirus restricts worldwide flights and mires a lot of the world, together with Britain, in a painful financial malaise.

However the visa supply is obtainable to an enormous variety of folks — about 70% of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million inhabitants.

Purposes for BN(O) passports have skyrocketed greater than 300% for the reason that nationwide safety legislation was imposed final July, with 733,000 registered holders as of mid-January.

Britain predicts as much as 154,000 Hong Kongers may arrive over the subsequent yr and as many as 322,000 over 5 years, bringing an estimated “net benefit” of as much as £2.9 billion ($4 billion).

The BN(O) passport is a legacy of Hong Kong’s return to authoritarian China.

Many Hong Kongers on the time wished Britain to grant them full citizenship however China was against the transfer.

The BN(O) was a compromise, permitting Hong Kongers born earlier than 1997 the precise to remain in Britain for six months at a time, however with no working or settling rights.

Now it has change into one of many few methods out for Hong Kongers hoping to begin a brand new life abroad as authorities conduct mass arrests of democracy supporters and transfer to purge the town of dissent.

Hong Kong nationwide safety police make 11 new arrests

‘A lifeboat’

Stella, a former advertising and marketing skilled, plans to maneuver to Britain imminently along with her husband and three-year-old son.

“The national security law in 2020 gave us one last kick because the provisions are basically criminalising free speech,” she informed AFP, asking to make use of simply her first title.

Beneath the visa scheme, these hoping to maneuver should present they’ve the funds to maintain each themselves and their dependents for at the very least six months.

China tells UK to keep away from meddling in its affairs regarding Hong Kong

Hong Kongers already in Britain who’re concerned in serving to others relocate say lots of the early candidates are usually educated middle-class folks, typically with younger households, who’ve sufficient liquidity to finance their transfer.

“Most people we spoke with are families with primary school- or nursery-age kids,” Nic, an activist with a gaggle referred to as Lion Rock Hill UK, informed AFP, asking for anonymity.

Some Hong Kongers started leaving the town even earlier than the brand new scheme went dwell.

Earlier this week, Britain mentioned round 7,000 folks moved during the last six months beneath a separate Go away Outdoors the Guidelines (LOTR) system. They can even have the ability to apply for the pathway-to-citizenship visas.

“The BNO is definitely a lifeboat for Hong Kongers,” Mike, a medical scientist who just lately relocated along with his household to Manchester, informed AFP.

He mentioned many Hong Kongers feared China would possibly cease residents leaving the territory.

“So it is better to leave as soon as possible,” he added.

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