UK kicks off new Hong Kong visa scheme

World Sunday 31/January/2021 17:04 PM
By: DW
UK kicks off new Hong Kong visa scheme

A British scheme to offer millions of Hong Kongers a path to British citizenship will take effect on Sunday.

From Sunday afternoon, anyone with a British National Overseas (BNO) passport and their dependents will be able to apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the United Kingdom.After five years of stay in the UK, they will be able to apply for citizenship.

BNO is a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong.

The latest visa plan is a response to Beijing's decision last year to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, to quell widespread pro-democracy protests.

Britain has accused China of violating its promise made ahead of Hong Kong's 1997 handover, that the financial hub would maintain key liberties and autonomy for 50 years.

Could bring in over 300,000 people

The UK government forecasts the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependents to Britain.

"We have honored our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week. Chinese officials have, however, denounced the plan.

On Friday China announced that it would no longer recognize BNO passports as a legitimate travel or identification document. The move was, however, largely symbolic as Hong Kongers generally use their own passports and ID cards to leave the city.

Phoebe Kong, DW's correspondent in Hong Kong says China has not ruled out further retaliation.

"There have been rumors that many pro-Beijing politicians are suggesting that authorities [should] consider revoking the civil rights of Hong Kong citizens who emigrate to the UK with their BNO passports."