This 31 January, the United Kingdom officially began the visa process for citizenship for Hong Kongers and, in recent times, many residents of the semi-autonomous island have flocked to British territory to begin the process, fearing Chinese repression .
From this Sunday, Hong Kong residents can apply for a new visa that offers them the opportunity to become British citizens, a proposal from London after China’s national security law came into force, which left hundreds of detainees after protesting Have given. United Kingdom to demand greater independence.
In recent times, dozens of Hong Kongers have arrived in British territory to begin the process, including first obtaining a residence and work permit for five years – via the so-called British Overseas Passport (BNO) – and Then they can apply for citizenship. One of the conditions for applicants is to show that they have enough money to live at least six months.
“I love Hong Kong a lot, but what has happened is very stressful. When Britain announced the visa option, my husband and I talked about it that night, and we sharpened our minds.” https://t.co/5cXcsNoH4T
– The Times (@thetimes) January 30, 2021
Among those coming to the UK was Cindy, a woman who had several properties with her husband and a business in Hong Kong, but who moved to London last week and left everything to live with her family. An epidemic did not stop them either.
“It is certainly not easy to elevate yourself in this way. But things got ugly last year, the government was actually eluding us (…) Everything we value, freedom of expression, fair elections, general freedom, has been erased. This Hong Kong we now knew is no longer the place we can call home, ”explained Businesswoman and mother of two young children, who did not give her last name for fear of repercussions for speaking out against Beijing .
Cindy said that she and other Hong Kong residents prefer to use the immigration process as soon as possible because they fear that the Chinese government will start preventing a possible mass exodus.
For his part, a 25-year-old, Anson Law, who works in sales, said he would consider moving to the UK despite the world’s difficult economic times.
“It’s still better than Hong Kong. For example, for youth like us who don’t know how to live or survive here,” he insisted. However he said that many people are still studying the situation before proceeding in the near future.
A UK “lifeboat” with no room for most protesters
The British government justified the claim that China was not fulfilling the commitments made during the 1997 Hong Kong handover, which meant guaranteeing the region’s independence and autonomy for at least fifty years. However, London claims to have opted out of Beijing’s repressive measures, with some accusing Boris Johnson of being an executive of hypocrisy, as it reaches far fewer pro-democracy activists.
“For all those who fear for their freedom, this is an emergency exit and they will certainly leave,” Pierre Grosser, an international relations expert at the Institute for Political Studies in Paris, known as the Po of Science Told France 24. “But I don’t see a big wave of immigration,” he said.
“In fact, pro-democracies have no other choice,” Catherine continued, Lion Rock Hill UK Group , Which promotes Hong Kong culture in the UK. “Most of the protesters in the last two years are still not 24 years old: they are not worried about BNO!”, He clarified in a conversation with France24.
It happens that only Hong Kong citizens born before the 1997 handover are eligible for a BNO passport, i.e. 70% of Hong Kong’s population, estimated to be 7.5 million inhabitants.
“This is British hypocrisy,” Jean-Yves Colin, an expert in North Asia at the Asia Center, told France 24. “In part, the British acknowledged passing their crime to hand over Hong Kong to Beijing, but they could also use this opportunity to replace the European workers who left with Hong Kong after the Brexit ! And restore their image, ”suggests.
Catherine of Lion Rock Hill UK said, “However, at the age of 25 there may be a majority of the Hong Kong population who will leave to live without independence or remain in custody without any valid reason.”
Several months after its announcement the United Kingdom opened the process
Although the plan was announced by the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in July 2020, the official opening took place on 31 January.
Andrew explained, “Prior to the announcement of the BNO visa in July, we had not inquired very much about UK immigration, probably less than 10 calls per month … now we get about 10 to 15 calls.” Lou, founder of Alex Immigration Consultants. in Hong Kong.
While it is unknown how many Hong Kong people want to claim the new system, according to London, BNO passport applications have increased by more than 300% since the security law came into force in late June. As of mid-January, there were 733,000 BNO holders. The British government estimates that 150,000 Hong Kong could reach 322,000 in the next twelve months and in the next five years.
London has reasons that, in 1997, when it returned to its erstwhile colony and became a special administrative region of China, the United Kingdom offered British foreign passports to Hong Kongers. Until now, these people could only go to the UK for six months without the need for a visa, but they had no right to live or work there.
Johnson said his government provides an opportunity for immigration because his country pays the debts of the people of Hong Kong. The same month came the proposal that Beijing enacted the so-called National Security Law, which included life imprisonment for those who, in their opinion, commit crimes of solitude, sabotage, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
That regulation was launched in recent years amid large-scale protests in which Hong Kong protested for greater independence from China.
Beijing threatened to retaliate
The Chinese government became angry with Britain’s decision. On Friday, Beijing announced that it would not recognize British foreign passports, a symbolic decision that the BNO only has value in London.
But the Chinese executive did not rule out “other measures”, although it is not yet clear what steps it will take against those who accept the London proposal. The local press has reported that the Chinese government may prevent them from participating in local elections, working in official functions or prohibiting dual citizenship.
“I believe that at a certain point, Chinese authorities will do everything possible to prevent the people of Hong Kong from leaving,” Jean-Yves Colin of the Asia Center predicted.
On Sunday, China’s new official agency accused London of having a “colonial mindset” and warned that the new agreements would harm “bilateral relations” and “the long-term interests of the United Kingdom”.
24 articles in French with information from Reuters, AP and France