Thousands Flee Hong Kong Under UK’s Special Visa Scheme Fearing Chinese CrackdownHong Kong Police using subdued protester as gun mount during widespread protests last year (via Twitter)

Britain announced last July that they will open up a unique immigration pathway for around 5 million eligible people from its former colony Hong Kong to live, work and then settle in the UK, Hindustan Times reports.

The applications for the British National Overseas visa start today and Hong Kongers can now earn the right to live and work in the European country for five years. They can file for a special status and acquire British citizenship post that.

Almost 7,000 individuals with British National Overseas (BNO) status have arrived in the UK since July and the government anticipates 3, 00,000 people to obtain the extended residency rights in the coming five years.

On the other hand, China has refused to recognize the BNO passport as a travel document or an identification form and claimed that it is an infringement on Beijing’s sovereignty.

Anti-government protests in the special administrative region had turned violent in 2019. Beijing cracked the whip by establishing a stringent national security regime last summer which effectively ended the territory’s special status.

Accordingly, acts such as subversion, secession, terrorism, foreign collision have been broadly defined in the new law and even social media posts can land regular citizens in trouble.

“Everything we value - freedom of speech, fair elections, liberties - has been eroded. It’s no longer the Hong Kong we knew, it’s no longer somewhere we can call home,” said Cindy, a young mother and businesswoman who moved to Britain amidst the global pandemic in 2020.

UK’s hand of support to its former colony will be keenly observed as its provisions pans out over the coming years.

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