PM offers route to citizenship for certain citizens of Hong Kong in response to controversial new security law
On the 1st of July 1997, then Prime Minister Tony Blair transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to China. Pursuant to an earlier agreement between the UK and China, Hong Kong would be run with special rights and freedoms not available in the rest of China, subject to the Sino-British joint declaration of 1984.
In more recent years, perceived moves by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to erode such rights and freedoms have attracted criticism from within Hong Kong (notably, resulting in large scale protests), and on an international scale. In response to actions taken by the CCP, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has moved to extend UK residence rights to British Nationals (Overseas) citizens (BNO) in Hong Kong.
The newly introduced immigration route will allow BNOs to enter, live, and work the UK for a period of five years, after which they could be eligible for settled status and ultimately British citizenship. Conflicting statements from the UK Government mean that the scope of the measures is currently unclear, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asserting that the route would apply only to the 350,000 current BNO passport holders in Hong Kong, and the PM seemingly contradicting this in saying “Today about 350,000 people hold British Nationals (Overseas) passports and another 2.5 million people would be eligible to apply for them”.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the measures have attracted criticism from Beijing, with China’s ambassador to the UK stating that “We firmly oppose this [the measures] and reserve the right to take corresponding measures. The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of ‘supervision’ over Hong Kong”.
Until the (as yet, unannounced) implementation date of the new measures, BNOs are permitted to enter the UK subject to the standard immigration checks (Hong Kong nationals and BNOs aged between 18 and 30 can already come to the UK under the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) to live and work here for up to two years).
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