Thousands bid to relocate to UK from Hong Kong

The worsening political situation in Hong Kong has already resulted in some 27,000 locals applying for residency in the UK under a scheme that only opened at the start of last month.

A relocation expert in the former British colony said that the early indications suggested tens of thousands more Hongkongers would seek to move to the UK this year under the British National (Overseas) visa scheme.The new route to British citizenship was announced by the government in London last year after Beijing imposed strict security laws on Hong Kong in a bid to end pro-democracy demonstrations. This year, matters have worsened with the passing of legislation preventing anyone not loyal to Beijing standing in local elections.Under the UK scheme, up to 5.4 million Hongkongers - those entitled to BN(O) passports and their dependants - could be eligible to come to Britain for up to five years, with the right to work and study, and to apply for citizenship after that.Benny Cheung Ka-hei, director of Goldmax Immigration Consulting, told the South China Morning Post that the initial number of applications under the scheme was “very high”, given that it only opened on February 1.“Given that 27,000 people have already applied in less than two months, if you do the maths, there could be 200,000 in a year, and a million people in five years,” he said.Goldmax has been receiving more than a hundred queries a month about the scheme. Although people some were concerned about finding work in the UK, Mr Cheung said, all were prepared to take different jobs than the ones they were doing in Hong Kong.Former Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, a leading advocate of BN(O) rights, told the Post that she knew of professionals who had already seized the opportunity and moved to Britain and elsewhere.“A lot of people are planning to leave. I knew some very senior doctors who have already left. These people are sought after overseas. If you’re senior enough, you will be hired,” she said.Last week, a survey of 5,700 people, conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, found that 21 per cent were either ready to leave the city and were making preparations to do so, or had decided to relocate but had not started planning yet.
On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a 30-minute video conference with four Hong Kong families who have already moved to the country.Mr Johnson told them: "On behalf of the whole country I want to say how glad we are to have you here and how proud we are that you have chosen the UK to live."I believe strongly in the prospects the UK can offer for those who want to make their lives here and I have no doubt that you are going to feel very much at home."The UK has a long and proud history of embracing those who arrive on our shores seeking the inalienable rights and freedoms denied to them in their homeland. I am very proud that we have been able to make this offer to you and other British Nationals (Overseas)."Downing Street said in a statement that the BN(O) scheme "reflects the UK’s historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong who have had their rights and freedoms restricted".The statement added that BN(O) status holders in Hong Kong with certain biometric passports were able to apply for their visa using a smartphone app to scan their passport rather than visiting a visa centre – the first time non-EEA passport holders have been able to use such technology to apply."The UK has taken a number of steps in response to restrictions on freedom in Hong Kong in addition to the BN(O) visa offer, including raising human rights abuses alongside international partners, suspending our extradition treaty with Hong Kong and extending our arms embargo on mainland China to Hong Kong," added No 10.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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