Hong Kong – Thousands flee to U.K. as it announces new visa scheme
Thousands of Hong Kongers have already made the sometimes painful decision to leave behind their hometown and move to Britain since Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the Chinese territory last summer. Their numbers are expected to swell to the hundreds of thousands. Some are leaving because they fear punishment for supporting the pro-democracy protests that swept the former British colony in 2019.
The moves are expected to gain momentum now that almost 5 million Hong Kongers are eligible to apply for visas to Britain, allowing them to live, work and study there and then eventually apply to become British citizens. Applications for the British National Overseas visa officially opened Sunday, though many have already arrived on British soil to get a head start.
Beijing said on Friday that it will no longer recognise the British National Overseas passport as a travel document or form of identification, and criticised Britain’s citizenship offer as a move that “seriously infringed” on China’s sovereignty. It was unclear what effect the announcement would have because many Hong Kongers carry multiple passports.
Beijing drastically hardened its stance on Hong Kong after massive anti-government protests in 2019 turned violent and plunged the city into a months-long crisis. Since the security law’s enactment, dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested, and the movement’s young leaders have either been jailed or fled abroad.