UK offers Hong Kong residents British passport – A stoking controversy
In mid-2020, China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong to assert its control over the region. After which, Britain accused China of violating its promise to grant Hong Kong semi-autonomous powers but China shrugged it off. The British government announced to create a special visa category for Hong Kongers holding British National (Overseas) passports, a unique pathway carved before the transfer of power in 1997. The new category that will eventually lead to citizenship, opens a new door of opportunities for a large number of people from Hong Kong to live and work in Britain.
In retaliation to Britain’s decision, China has announced that it would no longer recognize the special British passport already in use. On the contrary, the UK government claims that the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people, their dependents, and close family relatives. Beijing is of the view that this opportunity is not a blessing but it would make the Hong Kongers second-class citizens in another country. It escalated a new tension between both countries over the fate of the Hong Kong, which was once a British colony that returned to Chinese control back in 1997.
According to London, Britain is fulfilling its commitment to the people of Hong Kong after China imposed a new security law on the semi-autonomous city, which is considered a breach of terms of agreements under which the region was handed over to China.
“I am immensely proud that we have brought in this new route for Hong Kong BN(O)s to live, work and make their home in our country,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said about the new visa category initiated for the Hong Kong BN(O) passport holders. To which the Chinese government reacted with the statement that it would no longer recognize British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid travel document from January 31, 2021.
According to Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, “Britain is trying to turn large numbers of Hong Kong people into second-class British citizens. This has completely changed the original nature of BNO.” Right after the imposition of new security law, Britain government offered refuge to almost 3 million Hong Kong residents eligible for BNO passport. This new category allows people with British National (Overseas) status to live, work and study in Britain for five years and after a year more, they can apply for British citizenship.
Initially, the BNO passport allowed Hong Kongers six-months visit UK without the right to work. However, the new path offered to almost 350,000 Hong Kongers citizenship. Moreover, the BNO passport holder is not needed to receive a BNO visa, as long as the applicants can prove their eligibility using other documents. It is yet unclear what China’s decision will be for the Hong Kong residents, who are planning to leave.
Reacting to Chinese statement over the denial of BN(O), the Britain’s foreign ministry said that it is disappointing to see China not to recognise the BNO passport. Hong Kong residents would not normally use their BNO passports to travel to China. However, these residents can still use their Hong Kong passport or identity card.
According to Britain government’s estimate, if more than 300,000 people get attracted to this visa offer, it would boost the Britain economy over the next five years by generating up to 2.9 billion pounds of net benefit. Besides that, London is still attracting highest level of investment from Hong Kong based buyers, despite global pandemic situation. Based on last year’s statistics and the number of properties bought by Hong Kong buyers, it is stated that Hong Kong buyers were the second top foreign investors buying property in the UK. Even though the activity has slowed down due to lock down in the UK and resurgence in COVID-19 cases, but the new visa opening situation will lead to increase in demand of UK properties again. In August 2020, Battersea Power Station Development Co stated that a sudden spike is witnessed in number of inquiries received from Hong Kong since Easter, therefore the company has been planning to hold a sales exhibition in Hong Kong later in year 2020 or 2021.
If you belong to Hong Kong and are planning to buy a home in London or surrounding cities, our team would be delighted to help you. We are available throughout the weekdays to talk about investment plans on +44 203 888 5555, on Whatsapp or you can also send us your query via our online contact form and we would get back to you promptly. Note: British National (Overseas) is a special category created under British law in 1987 and is particularly related to Hong Kong citizens.
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