World Focus

UK to extend Visa rights for Hong Kong’ers

Dominic Raab, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, has announced that the UK will extend the visa rights of up to 300,000 Hong Kong British National (overseas) (BN(O)) passport holders should China continue down the path towards the implementation of the Hong Kong national security law.

Coming as the product of Conservative backbench pressure, arguing that the UK should assist those BN(O) passport holders who feel unnerved by China’s increasing hold on the city, the extension will apply to the approximately 315,000 valid BN(O) passport holders, who would have been issued the document prior to the handover of the city from the UK to China in 1997.

According to an article by the Financial Times, BN(O) passport holders currently have the right to reside in the UK for six months, as the passport does not offer them citizenship. However, this timeframe of occupation will be extended to a full year, and will “provide a pathway to future citizenship,” according to Raab.

Some have called, however, for the legislation to be taken further, with the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat, stating that “we need to go further and recognise the full rights of British nationals.”

Similarly, Bob Seeley, a Tory Member of Parliament (MP), and a figure at the forefront of parliamentary calls for the protection of Hong Kong, has said: “It’s a good start, but more is needed, such as the right to work in the UK and fast-track to UK citizenship,” as reported in an article by The Guardian.

Australia, Canada, the UK and the US have issued a joint statement condemning the actions of the Chinese parliament, noting that the new security legislation would ultimately undermine Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” framework.

“China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people – including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” read the joint statement, which can be view in full HERE.

The US, supported by the UK, has similarly announced that it no longer considers Hong Kong to be independent of China. This will allow the country to nullify special trade agreement which it has with Hong Kong, and as such, will potentially carry serious ramifications for the city’s economy, beyond those already witnessed as a product of the rioting.

Bonnie Glaser, Director, China power project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “Ultimately we could see capital flight. We could see US businesses moving out of Hong Kong, expats leaving, and the end to Hong Kong as an international financial center as we know it.”

“That may be a worst-case picture, it may not be that bad, but I think we have to consider that that is one possible outcome,” Glaser continued.