Britain opens up visas for Hong Kong residents in response to China’s crackdown on dissent

Millions of Hong Kong residents will now be able to apply to live and work in the UK when a historic immigration scheme for British National Overseas citizens finally opens its doors on 31 Jan, 2021 i.e Sunday. In response to China’s security crackdown in Hong Kong, Britain has launched its visa scheme inviting many residents of the former colony move to and eventually settle in the UK, reports The Guardian.

From around midday on Sunday, those eligible can apply online and book an appointment to register their fingerprints at a visa application centre. Later, some will be able to make the application using a smartphone app. Government estimates show that in all, 2.9 million people and a further 2.3 million dependents would potentially qualify.

UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday 29th Jan, 2021 announced that Hong Kong citizens who hold British National Overseas (BNO) status and their dependants would be able to live, study and work in Britain for five years and eventually apply for citizenship. The announcement comes as Britain accused China of breaching the terms of the 1997 handover by introducing security laws that the UK and other countries say are being used to silence dissent.

“In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy – values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear,” said the prime minister.

The UK government predicts more than 300,000 people may take up the offer over the next five years, bringing in between £2.4 and £2.9bn to the UK by 2025. Applications for the UK Visa was opened on Sunday.

The BNO scheme was first announced in July 2020 as controversial national security legislation imposed by Beijing went into effect in Hong Kong, sharply curtailing political freedoms. It was soon followed by a wave of arrests of dozens of pro-democracy activists and politicians, including well known names like Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who has been charged under the new security law.

China says the UK’s move to provide citizenship to Hong Kong residents interferes with its internal affairs.

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