ALL NEWS

Thousands flee Hong Kong for UK, fearing China crackdown

Jan 31, 2021, 9:47 AM
Thousands flee Hong Kong for UK, fearing China crackdown...
FILE - In this July 7, 2019, file photo, thousands of protesters carrying the British flag march near the harbor of Hong Kong. Thousands of people from Hong Kong are fleeing their hometown since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the territory in the summer 2020. Many say China’s encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties has become unbearable, and they want to seek a better future for their children abroad. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
(AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of Hong Kongers have already made the sometimes painful decision to leave behind their hometown and move to Britain since Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the Chinese territory last summer. Their numbers are expected to swell to the hundreds of thousands.

Some are leaving because they fear punishment for supporting the pro-democracy protests that swept the former British colony in 2019. Others say China’s encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties has become unbearable, and they want to seek a better future for their children abroad. Most say they don’t plan to ever go back.

The moves are expected to accelerate now that 5 million Hong Kongers are eligible to apply for visas to Britain, allowing them to live, work and study there and eventually apply to become British citizens. Applications for the British National Overseas visa officially opened Sunday, though many have already arrived on British soil to get a head start.

Britain’s government said some 7,000 people with British National Overseas passports — a travel document that Hong Kongers could apply for before the city was handed over to Chinese control in 1997 — have arrived since July on the previously allowed six month visa. It estimates that over 300,000 people will take up the offer of extended residency rights in the next five years.

“Before the announcement of the BN(O) visa in July, we didn’t have many enquiries about U.K. immigration, maybe less than 10 a month,” said Andrew Lo, founder of Anlex Immigration Consultants in Hong Kong. “Now we receive about 10 to 15 calls a day asking about it.”

Mike, a photojournalist, said he plans to apply for the visa and move to Leeds with his wife and young daughter in April.

His motivation to leave Hong Kong came after the city’s political situation deteriorated following the anti-government protests and he realized that the city’s police force was not politically neutral.

The police have been criticized by pro-democracy supporters for brutality and the use of excessive violence.

Mike said moving to Britain was important as he believed the education system in Hong Kong will be affected by the political situation and it will be better for his daughter to study in the U.K.

Mike agreed to speak on the condition that he only be identified by his first name out of fear of official retaliation.

Lo said that with the new visa, the barrier to entry to move to the U.K. becomes extremely low, with no language or education qualification requirements. British National Overseas passport holders need to prove that they have enough money to support themselves for six months and prove that they are clear of tuberculosis, according to the U.K. government.

Currently, Lo assists three to four families a week in their move to the U.K. About 60% of those are families with young children, while the remaining are young couples or young professionals.

Cindy, a Hong Kong businesswoman and the mother of two young children, arrived in London last week.

In Hong Kong she had a comfortable lifestyle. She owned several properties with her husband and the business she ran was going well. But she made up her mind to leave it all behind as she felt that the city’s freedoms and liberties were eroding and she wanted to ensure a good future for her kids.

Cindy, who spoke on the condition she only be identified by her first name out of concern of official retaliation, said it was important to move quickly as she feared Beijing would soon move to halt the exodus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week the visa offer shows Britain is honoring its “profound ties of history” with Hong Kong, which was handed over to China on the understanding that it would retain its Western-style freedoms and much of its political autonomy not seen on mainland China.

Beijing said Friday it will no longer recognize the British National Overseas passport as a travel document or form of identification, and criticized Britain’s citizenship offer as a move that “seriously infringed” on China’s sovereignty. It was unclear what effect the announcement would have because many Hong Kongers carry multiple passports.

Beijing drastically hardened its stance on Hong Kong after the 2019 protests turned violent and plunged the city into a months-long crisis. Since the security law’s enactment, dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested, and the movement’s young leaders have either been jailed or fled abroad.

Because the new law broadly defined acts of subversion, secession, foreign collusion and terrorism, many in Hong Kong fear that expressing any form of political opposition — even posting messages on social media — could land them in trouble.

“This is a really unique emigration wave – some people haven’t had time to actually visit the country they’re relocating to. Many have no experience of living abroad,” said Miriam Lo, who runs Excelsior UK, a relocation agency. “And because of the pandemic, they couldn’t even come over to view a home before deciding to buy.”
___
Hui reported from London.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

FILE: The sun sets as a rainstorm blows over Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab on Sat...
Devin Oldroyd

Body found in Arches National Park Saturday

rand County Sheriff's Office reports the body of a female was found in Arches National Park Saturday, Oct. 1.
21 hours ago
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said that he will vote against any potential congressional d...
Devan Cole, CNN

Rubio vows to oppose potential Hurricane Ian aid package if lawmakers ‘load it up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm’

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he will vote against any potential congressional disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Ian if lawmakers "load it up with stuff that's unrelated to the storm."
21 hours ago
Photo credit: Lisa Wall Jones...
Devin Oldroyd

Fatal car crash closes southbound I-15 in Washington County

Southbound I-15 closed at mile marker 34, following a fatal car crash Sunday. Closure time is estimated to be two to three hours.
21 hours ago
The National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm warning in parts of Grand County. Photo c...
Devin Oldroyd

NWS issues severe thunderstorm warning in Grand County

The National Weather Service sent out a severe thunderstorm warning in parts of Grand County. Half-dollar-sized hail is being reported.
21 hours ago
Temple Square...
Devin Oldroyd

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces the construction of 18 new temples

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the construction of 18 new temples.
21 hours ago
The new monuments at This is the place heritage park....
Devin Oldroyd

Progress in 175 years: Discovering new stories of Utah’s pioneers

Mary Richards with the Church News returns to KSL NewsRadio to celebrate lesser-known stories of Utah Pioneers
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Thousands flee Hong Kong for UK, fearing China crackdown