London provides a gateway for Hong Kong’s millions

From Sunday afternoon, holders of a British National Overseas Passport (BNO) and their relatives will be able to apply online for a residence permit in Great Britain, which will not only give them the right to live there, but also the right to work there. five years. Eventually, they will be able to apply for citizenship.

Until now, he was allowed to visit the UK for only six months without being able to work there.

The reform is London’s reaction to Beijing’s controversial decision to implement a national security law on its semi-autonomous region to prevent all forms of dissent after the mass popular mobilization of 2019.

Britain has accused China of abstaining on its pledge in 1997 before handing over Hong Kong to maintain the region’s independence and autonomy for at least half a century. London has put forth its moral duty to assist its former colony.

“Colonial mentality”

“We respect our deep, historical and friendly relations with the people of Hong Kong, and we stand for freedom and autonomy.”Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement this week.

The reform provoked China’s instigation, which announced that it would no longer recognize BNO passports as inherited from the handover. A symbolic decision because Honkongji typically use their local identity card to leave the area.

But Beijing said it was ready “Other Measures”, Fears that authorities are trying to prevent Hong Kong people from leaving.

On Sunday, the official China New Agency accused London of having a “colonial mindset” warning that the new system would harm “Bilateral Relations” and to “Long-term interests of Great Britain”.

It is not known how many Hong Kongers will apply for this visa, especially in the context of the epidemic, which is complicating international travel and weighing economies, knowing that in Hong Kong compared to Great Britain Health conditions are much better.

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But it is about 70% of Hong Kong’s population, which is 7.5 million residents, who can apply for this visa.

BNO passport applications have increased by more than 300% since the Security Act came into force at the end of June. There were 733,000 BNO holders in the middle of January.

London estimates 150,000 Hong Kongers may arrive in the next 12 months, and 322,000 over the next five years.

“Rescue boat”

At the time of the handover, many Hong Kong citizens were asking London for full citizenship, but Beijing vehemently opposed it. And BNO was an agreement for Hong Kong born before 1997.

This passport is now one of the final exit tickets for Hong Kong people who want to start a new life elsewhere, while repression intensified in the semi-autonomous region.

Stella, who previously worked in marketing, plans to move to the UK with her husband and their three-month-old baby very soon.

“National security law in 2020 was the final straw since the amount of its provisions for criminalization of freedom of expression”, She told AFP, refused to mention her last name.

One of the conditions for getting a new visa is to be able to prove that you have enough money to stay for at least six months.

Hong Kong who are already settled in the UK and who are helping people wishing to reside, say that many of those who apply are middle class and to save it in the coming times There is substantial savings.

“Most of the people we talked to are families with children in elementary or nursery school”An activist of the Lion Rock Hill UK organization, named one of Hong Kong’s most famous mountains, reported on condition of anonymity.

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“BNO is indisputably a lifeboat”, AFP Mike, told a scientist who recently arrived in Manchester with his family. He said that many people in Hong Kong are worried that China is trying to stop them from fleeing: “So we have to leave as soon as possible.”

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