A new advocacy group said Hong Kong residents are likely to move to the UK faster than the British government expected, and more should be done to prepare for their arrival.
Hong Kong in Britain (HKB) has conducted a city-dwellers survey in hopes of emigrating under a new UK government scheme that opens in January, allowing those with colonial-era Britain Overseas (BNO) status to obtain visas and pursue a “path of citizenship”.
The Home Ministry has already said it expects nearly half a million people to accept the offer in the first three years, but the Bank of Hong Kong said the number could be over 600,000.
About three quarters of those who plan to relocate have college degrees and are paid well above the city average, so they will be well-positioned to contribute to the British economy. Few of them have family in Britain and only half of them have friends here, so they may need help with settling and integrating. The group said three-quarters of them plan to travel with the children, so schools must be prepared for the influx of students.
Four out of five of those surveyed want to come in the next two years, faster than the UK government had expected.
Speed is how fast they want to come to the UK or leave Hong Kong [is] Said Ricky Young of HKB. “A lot will come soon, very soon. The majority, 80%, were planning to emigrate and leave Hong Kong within two years.”
Britain’s road to citizenship plan was developed in response to the National Security Act passed by Beijing this summer, which was used to crush dissent in Hong Kong across politics, academia and the media.
The survey of those hoping to use it for immigration was not a random sample of the city’s population, because immigration to the UK is politically sensitive. China has condemned this policy and threatened to stop recognizing BNO passports and take other “countermeasures”.
Instead, HKB searched for survey respondents on social media channels, where it has a strong following. More than 300 people participated anonymously.
There have been predictions of a brain drain occurring as many in the city are considering offering a UK visa or emigrating to other countries including Canada and Australia. About 3 million people in Hong Kong, or nearly half of the city’s population, are eligible to obtain British (overseas) passports, and will be able to travel with dependents.
Those who wanted to come to Britain overwhelmingly said the main motive to uproot their lives and move halfway around the world was political pressure.
The Bank of Hong Kong report stated that “ninety-six percent consider that Hong Kong is no longer the safe and free home they used to live in, after the National Security Act was passed.”
Almost everyone views their move as a step towards citizenship, with 93% of them hoping to apply when they qualify after residing for five years.
A small percentage of those hoping to move into the pro-democracy protests have been arrested since 2019. And although criminal records often prohibit the granting of visas, residents of Hong Kong in Britain have called on UK authorities to use discretion in the cases of applicants accused of crimes Political.
Several respondents said they were concerned about monitoring Chinese security forces, even in the UK. The group called on the British authorities to consider excluding groups that could “harm national security”, such as Hong Kong police and officials, from the visa scheme.
It also called for expansion to cover those who do not have BNO status but need safe haven, including younger protesters who were born after the 1997 handover of power from British colonial rule, or whose parents do not hold BNO status.
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