Britain opens visa scheme for millions of Hong Kongers

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Hong Kong

Anyone with a British National (Overseas) passport and their dependents can now apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the United Kingdom.
A new visa scheme offering millions of Hong Kongers a pathway to British citizenship went live on Sunday as the city’s former colonial master opens its doors to those wanting to escape China’s crackdown on dissent. Anyone with a British National (Overseas) passport and their dependents can now apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the United Kingdom. After five years, they can apply for citizenship. The immigration scheme is a response to Beijing’s decision last year to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong to snuff out the huge and often violent democracy protests. Britain has accused China of tearing up its promise ahead of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover that the financial hub would maintain key liberties and autonomy for 50 years, and has argued it has a moral duty to protect its former subjects. ‘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,’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of the scheme this week. The website for visa applications went online at 5pm in Hong Kong (0900 GMT).

China has reacted with fury to the visa offer, announcing that it would no longer recognise the passports as a legitimate travel or ID document. The move was largely symbolic as Hong Kongers tend to use their own passports or ID cards to leave the city. But Beijing said it was prepared to take ‘further measures’, raising fears authorities might try to stop Hong Kongers from leaving for Britain.—AFP

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