Connie Chan and her family are among the 7,000 Hong Kong residents who have moved to the UK since July. Within five years, they will have the right to become British citizens, under a new visa regime that goes into effect today.
“We literally decided overnight, like, ‘Well, we’d better leave’ – said Connie, who runs an e-commerce company – we saw things get worse in Hong Kong and not that. It’s not the Hong Kong we know.”
It is believed that around 300,000 people may decide to move to the UK soon.
Beijing was not satisfied with this, which would no longer recognize Britain’s overseas national passports for former Hong Kong residents.
London move to support the citizens of the former British colony
Starting Sunday, Hong Kong citizens can apply for new visas that allow them to stay longer in the UK and escape Chinese repression.
British National Overseas Passport (BNO) holders and their relatives have been able to apply online since 17:00 (09:00 GMT) this Sunday to obtain a residence permit that gives them not only the right to live on British soil, but also the right to work. For five years. Ultimately, they will be able to apply for citizenship.
Until now they had only had the option to visit the UK for six months without being able to work there.
The reform comes on the heels of Beijing’s controversial decision last summer to impose a strict national security law in its semi-autonomous region to deter all forms of dissent, in the wake of massive popular mobilization in 2019.
Britain accused China of abandoning the commitment it made before the passage of Hong Kong in 1997 to preserve the region’s freedoms and autonomy for at least half a century. London stressed its moral imperative to help save its former colony.
China: “UK is interfering blatantly”
“The United Kingdom is trying to convert large numbers of Hong Kong residents into second-class British citizens,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, accusing Britain of being in dire need of talent and capital. He added that the move violates China’s sovereignty and flagrantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and Chinese internal affairs.
The measures announced so far will not prevent the majority of Hong Kong residents eligible to travel, but Beijing has not ruled out more restrictive measures in the future.