Britain gives special passports to Hong Kong people

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Thanks to new measures by Boris Johnson’s government, which come into effect on Sunday 31 January, Hong Kong people holding a British foreign passport known as BNO (British National Overseas) will now be able to live and work in the United Kingdom. Will be able to Combined for five years. And finally apply for British nationality. London decided to extend its involvement with the BNO in response to China’s allegation last year of a national security law restricting independence in Hong Kong. Over 5 million Hong Kong people are now eligible for BNO.

With our correspondent in Shanghai, Simon Lapplett And Clea Broadhurst, For international service of RFI

Bno passport This makes it easier for Hong Kong people to visit the UK. It was created in 1997, after handing over the former British colony to China, to preserve the relationship with the population.

Until now, it had allowed six months to be spent on British soil. But London decided to extend this right to five years, to achieve full British nationality, the possibility of working and at the end of these five years.

Today, this passport holds 350,000 Hong Kongers, but nearly 3 million people born before 1997 are entitled to it. According to the UK Home Office, at least 7,000 Hong Kong people have already migrated to the UK in the last six months. He took advantage of the extraordinary process imposed by London in response to the passage of the National Security Act announced in Hong Kong. A law described by the Johnson government ” Clear and serious violation of Sino-British joint declaration »Signed in 1984, handed over thirteen years ago.

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Fear for children’s future

« It is a path for those who are genuinely afraid of living under Chinese Communist rule, who are afraid of losing their independence and rule of law and no longer feel safe, Emily Lau of the Hong Kong Democratic Party explains. More than 7,000 Hong Kong families moved to the UK before they started offering BNOs. Many people in Hong Kong see it as an escape from tyranny and a lack of freedom. »

For Emily Lau, it is fear for herself but also for her children who want to leave the people of Hong Kong. ” They do not want them to grow up in an oppressive environment where there is no judicial independence, where the police can arrest people without any crime. Hong Kong was a very safe and free city. but not anymore. Many ask, “Why stay here? I don’t know when my children or I can get arrested without proper treatment.” So they are very worried. »

Beijing retaliated

Expressing displeasure over the British measure, China announced on Friday that it would « Will not recognize now »Les BNO. The BNO passport was only valuable in London as a symbolic measure at first glance. But Beijing has also promised several types of reprisals to holders of this British foreign passport: prohibiting them from working in official functions, restricting the right to vote or ban dual nationality … However, these threats – and Their results in particular – are unclear.

For Emily Lau of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, some measures of the Chinese government would have serious consequences not only for Hong Kong, but also for Beijing. ” It would be terrible if they took drastic measures to punish Hong Kongers, such as preventing them from working in the public service or denying them the right to vote in Hong Kong. And fear will catch Hong Kong because there are millions of BNOs, and a large number of them are pro-Beijing, and the basis of the economy! »

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Also read: Hong Kong: Anti-democracy activist seeks political asylum in United Kingdom

British lack in preparation

On the British side, it is not yet known how many Hong Kongs would benefit to come to the United Kingdom. Also, is the London government ready in the event of heavy demands? Benedict Rogers, founder of the NGO Hong Kong Watch, suspects this: We are talking about a potentially very large number of people. It is clear that the government has made this proposal and it is its policy so it is not going back to ensure this. For me, the challenge, and this is what I am fighting for, is that there is not really a well-thought-out plan from the UK government on what to do.. »

« Whether 100,000 or 2 to 3 million people have reached the UK, how do you manage their integration? Interred Benedict Rogers. How do we welcome them? How do you make sure they fit properly? This is my concern. Necessary coordination is not visible from the government. A lot of non-governmental organizations are emerging that are ready to help, but in civil society we are all concerned about the government’s response, in terms of the resources needed. So, we are doing everything that we can to ensure that the government formulates a realistic strategy. »

4 Also read: London tightens its tone against Beijing and suspends its extradition treaty with Hong Kong

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