Millions of Hong Kong people can apply for new visas this Sunday, allowing them to stay longer in Great Britain and then apply for naturalization, a way for former ex-colonial powers to find a way to escape Chinese oppression.
Holders of a British National Foreign Passport (PNO) and their relatives were able to apply online for a residence permit in Great Britain this Sunday from 5:00 pm (9:00 am GMT), which not only gives them the right to live there , But the right to work there for five years. Eventually, they will be able to apply for citizenship.
Until now, they have not been able to work there and have only been allowed to move to the UK for six months.
The reform is London’s response to Beijing’s controversial decision last summer to impose stricter national security legislation to curb all forms of dissent in its semi-autonomous region.
Britain has accused China of pledging to protect the region’s independence and autonomy for at least half a century before handing over to Hong Kong in 1997. London has advanced its moral obligation to come to the aid of its former colony.
– “Colonial Mood” –
“We value our deep, historical and friendly relations with the people of Hong Kong and stand for freedom and autonomy,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement this week.
The reform angered China, which announced that PNO passports obtained from the handover would no longer be recognized as identity documents. A code decision, because Hong Kongs usually use their local identity card to leave the territory.
But Beijing said it was ready for “other measures”, raising fears that authorities were trying to prevent the Hong Kongers from leaving.
On Sunday, the official Chinese new agency accused London of having a “colonial mindset” and warned that the new arrangements would be detrimental to “bilateral relations” and “Britain’s long-term interests”.
The Liaison Office, which represents the central government in Hong Kong, issued a statement on Sunday stating “strong condemnation and total opposition” to the move.
It is not known how many Hong Kong people will apply for this visa, especially in the context of an epidemic that is complicating international travel and weighing economies, knowing that the health situation in Hong Kong is much better than in Great Britain.
But this is 70% of the population of Hong Kong, which is 7.5 million people, who can apply for this visa.
PNO passport applications have increased by more than 300% since the Security Act came into force at the end of June. As of mid-January, there were 733,000 PNO holders.
London estimates that 150,000 Hong Kong people are expected to arrive in the next 12 months and 322,000 in the next five years.
– “Rescue boat” –
At the time of the handover, many Hong Kongers were demanding full citizenship of London, but Beijing vehemently opposed it. The PNO was a compromise for Hong Kongers born before 1997.
This passport is now one of the last exit tickets that Hong Kong people want to rebuild their lives elsewhere, while repression has intensified in the semi-autonomous region.
Stella, who previously worked in marketing, plans to move to the UK very soon with her husband and their three-month-old baby.
“The National Security Act 2020 is the last straw because of its provisions to criminalize freedom of expression,” he told the AFP, refusing to give his last name.