Saturday, January 16

‘Hundreds of thousands’ of Hong Kongers will accept Boris’s escape route to the UK


A London-based Hong Kong student has said that she is keen to take up UK government’s ‘lifeboat’ offer to live and settle in Britain after China launched a brutal crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy protesters with its new national security law.

Eunice Wong, who has just finished her Master’s degree in the UK, said the escape route provided by No. 10 was ‘the only option’ for her because it would no longer be safe for her to go back home.

Ms Wong could be among ‘hundreds of thousands of people’ who plan to uproot their lives in the former British colony and come to the UK to avoid being persecuted by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities. 

‘Hundreds of thousands of people’ from Hong Kong might come to the UK after the Government offered an escape route to around three million British National Overseas passport holders in the former colony, according to an activist who has been granted asylum  

Eunice Wong, who has just finished her Master's degree in the UK, said the escape route provided by No. 10 was 'the only option' for her out of fears that she could be persecuted back home. Pictured, a man is detained by riot police during a demonstration on July 1 in Hong Kong

Eunice Wong, who has just finished her Master’s degree in the UK, said the escape route provided by No. 10 was ‘the only option’ for her out of fears that she could be persecuted back home. Pictured, a man is detained by riot police during a demonstration on July 1 in Hong Kong

Boris Johnson yesterday unveiled firm plans for the UK to take in up to three million Hong Kong residents who hold the British National Overseas (BNO) passports as Downing Street blasted China over the draconian new clampdown on the opposition. 

Q&A on Hong Kong’s British Nationals Overseas (BNOs)

What is a British National (overseas)?

Hong Kongers could register for this special status before the 1997 handover. They get a UK passport but no automatic right to live and work in the UK. You cannot apply to become a BNO.

How many of them are there?

As of February, there were 349,881 BNO passport holders. The Government estimates that there are around 2.9million BNOs currently in Hong Kong.

What is Britain offering them?

A path to citizenship. BNOs will get five years ‘limited leave to remain’. They can then apply for ‘settled status’. After 12 months with settled status, they can apply for citizenship. Their close family will also be eligible. 

‘This lifeboat scheme will help these British Nationals and their dependents to come to the UK if they need to. BNOs are given the chance to work and contribute into society and work towards citizenship which was previously restricted with visas,’ Ms Wong told MailOnline. 

The Imperial College London graduate, who is in her 20s, said that because she had spoken to media in the UK, she would be deemed an offender of the security law and persecuted by Hong Kong authorities. 

But she noted that it was hard to estimate how many people in Hong Kong would move to the UK through the route at present.

‘It depends on the details released from the Home Office [before we can make] such a big decision, as Hong Kong is where our roots are and leaving our home is a big change,’ she added.

‘Furthermore, there is no access to public funds so BNOs who come will have to be financially well off in order to support themselves and are able to come and get a job.

‘Some people who are eligible for a BNO might already have a different nationality, therefore, they might not want to come to the UK.’ 

‘Hundreds of thousands of people’ from Hong Kong might take advantage of No.10’s offer and move to the UK, said a former British consulate worker who alleged he was tortured in China.

Simon Cheng is the first person to have been granted political asylum by the Home Office in response to China’s crackdown on the Hong Kong anti-government movement after he was allegedly shackled, beaten, forced to stand for long hours in secret detention in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Mr Cheng, a British overseas national, announced Wednesday night that his immigration application had been approved last Friday by the British government, possibly heralding a new wave of immigrants from the Asian financial hub.

Simon Cheng (pictured) is the first person to have been granted political asylum by the Home Office in relation to China’s crackdown on the Hong Kong anti-government movement after he was allegedly shackled, beaten, forced to stand for long hours in secret detention in China

Simon Cheng (pictured) is the first person to have been granted political asylum by the Home Office in relation to China’s crackdown on the Hong Kong anti-government movement after he was allegedly shackled, beaten, forced to stand for long hours in secret detention in China

The file picture taken on November 29, 2019 shows Hong Kong protesters wearing masks depicting Simon Cheng old banners as they attend a rally outside the British Consulate General in Hong Kong after he was allegedly tortured for long hours in Shenzhen, China

The file picture taken on November 29, 2019 shows Hong Kong protesters wearing masks depicting Simon Cheng old banners as they attend a rally outside the British Consulate General in Hong Kong after he was allegedly tortured for long hours in Shenzhen, China

Thousands of Hong Kong citizens have already expressed their desire to move to Britain on social media platforms.

A Facebook group named the ‘Official Group for BNO Equality Movement’ has seen nearly 3,000 new members in the past month.

Numerous Hong Kong websites have published articles explaining the process of applying for a BNO, including one titled ‘Things you must know before immigration’.

Hong Kongers have also flocked to voice their plan to escape to the UK on Twitter.

One wrote: ‘Unlike most Chinese, we will contribute and maintain the value of freedom and democracy in UK.’

As of February, there were nearly 350,000 BNO passport holders, while the Government estimates there are around 2.9million BNOs living in Hong Kong. 

Police officers are seen in front of a water cannon during a march against the national security law at the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong on July 1

Police officers are seen in front of a water cannon during a march against the national security law at the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong on July 1

Police officers detain protesters during a rally against a new national security law on the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on July 1

Police officers detain protesters during a rally against a new national security law on the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on July 1

Mr Cheng, a British overseas national, was detained in China for over two weeks last August after Beijing accused the former consulate worker of inciting unrest amid mass anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong. 

The 29-year-old announced in a Facebook post Wednesday night that his immigration application had been approved last Friday by the British government.  

He wrote: ‘The UK Home Office has granted me the eligibility for asylum. The Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Office are also introducing immigration policies to protect the overseas British passport holders and their family members.

‘I sincerely thank the British government for fulfilling its moral obligations and showcasing political courage to rescue British citizens. [I] hope I can be the first (of many), and those Hong Kong citizens who have not been taken into account could seek protection,’ the pro-democracy supporter added.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured in the House of Commons on July 1) has offered three million British Nationals Overseas (BNO) passport holders to relocate to the UK after China imposed draconian new national security law in the Asian financial hub

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured in the House of Commons on July 1) has offered three million British Nationals Overseas (BNO) passport holders to relocate to the UK after China imposed draconian new national security law in the Asian financial hub

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on July 1

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on July 1

It comes after British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has offered three million British Nationals Overseas (BNO) passport holders to relocate to the UK after China imposed draconian new national security law in the financial hub.

Mr Raab told MPs yesterday the ‘bespoke’ new arrangement to be implemented in the coming months would grant BNOs five years’ limited leave to remain in the UK with the ability to live and work.

They would then be eligible to apply for settled status and would be able to apply for citizenship after 12 months with that status. 

However, the Foreign Secretary later said ‘only a proportion’ would be likely to take up the new status.

He also said that if Beijing tried to stop people with British National (Overseas) status from leaving Hong Kong, there would be little that could be done by the UK. 

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (pictured) told reporters at a press conference today that 'all the consequences shall be borne by the UK side' after Britain drew up plans to offer residency to three million Hong Kongers

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (pictured) told reporters at a press conference today that ‘all the consequences shall be borne by the UK side’ after Britain drew up plans to offer residency to three million Hong Kongers

China today threatened to punish Britain for offering three million Hong Kongers an escape route from Beijing’s crackdown on dissent – warning at a press conference that the UK would ‘bear the consequences’. 

Hours after Britain accused China of manoeuvring to ‘strangle’ Hong Kong’s freedoms with a ‘grave and deeply disturbing’ new security law, Beijing’s embassy in London called the offer a breach of international law and warned: ‘We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures.’  

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that ‘the UK should bear any consequences caused by this… Hong Kong matters are China’s domestic affairs, and no countries have any right to intervene.’  



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