Hong Kong individuals demonstrated in ten completely different UK cities to protest the one-year anniversary of the promulgation of Hong Kong’s National Security Act and the centenary of the Communist Party of China.
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LONDON – It’s been 9 months since Adrian Leung and his household packed their lives in Hong Kong searching for a brighter future within the UK.
The 51-year-old trainer was about to flee political turmoil to Canada along with his spouse and son. But when Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s authorities introduced a brand new visa program to present Hong Kong residents the proper of residence – and eventual citizenship – in Britain, he mentioned his selection was clear.
“Compared to Canada’s plan, the UK plan has a much lower criterion: we only need to stay in the country for five years. For me, it’s very simple,” Leung instructed CNBC.
Many in Hong Kong are outraged that the encroachment on China’s semi-autonomous area is within the wake of a brand new one. The National Security Act was passed in June 2020.
regulation supposed to ban Secession and subversion of state powerhas been broadly condemned by western governments And human rights watchdog As a dilution of the “one country, two systems” precept underneath which the previous British colony was transferred to China in 1997.
This prompted Britain to grant asylum to these born in Hong Kong earlier than handing it over. While it’s not clear how many individuals have gone due to the safety regulation, the UK asylum supply got here for that particular function and was timed accordingly. The UK has mentioned it should assist individuals born in Hong Kong forward of its handover, citing “China’s failure to fulfill its international obligations regarding Hong Kong.”
A spokesman for Hong Kong’s Department of Information Services mentioned it “condemns and opposes” the launch of UK visas, whereas the Chinese embassy in London mentioned the scheme “interferes in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs”. Huh.”
China has separately rejected claims that the law undermines local freedoms, saying it was a necessary measure to ease the chaos. public protest Which overtook Hong Kong in 2019.
Leung, some of whom were students prosecuted and, in some cases, imprisoned for demonstrations, is one of thousands of Hong Kongers who have emigrated to Britain over the past year.
“It appeared to me, after June 2019, that Hong Kong was not going to be underneath the rule of regulation,” Leung said, referring to the start of the protests. “For the sake of my son’s future, I believed we needed to go away,” he told CNBC.
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The British National (Overseas), or BNO, visa program was launched with great fanfare in January 2021, with Johnson proud of the program designed to honor Britain’s “deep ties of historical past and friendship with the individuals of Hong Kong”. announced.
The UK government said at the time that the program would open the door to an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Hong Kongers (although up to 5.4 million are eligible) and generate a maximum £2.9bn ($3.9bn) web revenue to UK economic system greater than 5 years.
Adrian Leung moved to Durham, UK with his wife and son in June 2021, shortly after the government opened its BNO visa scheme to Hong Kong citizens.
In the 12 months that followed, the UK received 103,900 applications for the visa programme, which gives holders and their dependents the right of five-year residency along the path of citizenship. More than 97,000 applications have been successful so far, according to Data released on Thursday by the UK Home Office.
Most of those applicants are highly skilled and are working in professional or managerial roles.
In a survey of 500 people granted visas, got home office Seven out of 10 (69%) were university educated and three-quarters (76%) held professional occupations. Almost all (96%) were of working age, of whom two in five (21%) were under 35 years of age.
The findings suggest a victory for the UK government as it seeks to position itself as a magnet for international talent, even as it closes its doors to EU workers after Brexit. gives. Yet the experience of Hong Kong expatriates who spoke to CNBC has been far more nuanced.
While BNO visa holders praised the pace and ease of processing purposes (normally round six weeks), some mentioned personal cost of taking action have been high – at least not financially.
A five-year visa costs £250 ($340) in addition to the mandatory NHS surcharge of £3,120 for adults and £2,350 for children. A family of four can expect to pay £11,940 in fees before entering the United Kingdom.
As Britain faces it Worst cost of life crisis in decades amid rising prices of home, food and energy.
Leung and his wife sold their apartment, redeemed their pension and used their savings to move to Britain. They recently bought a house in Durham, in the north-east of England, but not everyone has been as lucky.
Katie, a Hong Kong nurse, relocates to Nottingham, England in December 2020 during the height of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.
A BNO visa holder who spoke anonymously to CNBC for fear of backlash or being identified by new associates in the UK arrived in Nottingham, England in December 2020 – during the height of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.
The source quickly found himself in a Catch 22; Unable to rent a house without a bank account and unable to open a bank account without a home address.
After six weeks at an Airbnb, the 45-year-old finally found a landlord who would house him and his family in exchange for six months of advanced rent. Meanwhile, his pension remains under dispute in Hong Kong.
“Money or wage shouldn’t be our prime precedence,” said the source, who, along with his wife, left his permanent nursing job in Hong Kong in search of “democracy, rule of regulation, civil liberties and respect”.
The Chinese Embassy in London and Hong Kong’s Department of Information Services did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Like many other highly skilled Hong Kong expatriates in Britain, the source found himself sacrificing financial and professional stability for the sake of political security. He now works on contract in a hospital while his wife works part-time in a warehouse.
“There was a gap in my life after a year,” he said, adding that he and his family are using the savings to meet their needs.
Meanwhile, a second CNBC source found himself ineligible for most of the available work. The PhD-educated university lecturer decided to leave Hong Kong when its “human rights scenario deteriorated”, he said, where it threatened the future of his children and their mental health.
After a six-month “nightmare” looking for a job, the 51-year-old worked part-time at a popular central London fast food chain, where he works nights out.
Another source said on the condition of anonymity, “If I did not have youngsters, I might have had a distinct thought, as a result of coming right here I had to surrender the whole lot – work, cash, associates, standing.”
BNO visa holders are not eligible for welfare benefits, except in extreme circumstances. Instead, the government said £43 million set aside For integration projects for the Hong Kong expatriate, including support for access to housing, work and education.
Although another unnamed source said that better provisions would have been made for the sudden influx of Hong Kong workers, he still considers himself “fortunate”.
Within weeks of arriving in June 2021, he secured a place for his 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter at a “excellent state college” in outer London, the place he and his spouse are staying with a buddy Huh.
Adrian Leung, who left Hong Kong hoping for a brighter future, said his 10-year-old son is enjoying more freedom in Britain.
“My preliminary mission was to assist the youngsters modify. It seems they’ve truly adjusted higher than me,” noting that their kids quickly settled into local friendship groups.
One year into the program, competition for school spaces is heating up. Reports suggest some schools, notably Britain’s elite public schoolsAmid record enrollment and interest, Hong Kong students have had to turn away. About three-quarters of BNO visa holders who come to the UK are married or with long-term partners, while two-thirds have children.
“We’re fortunate we have settled down somewhat bit,” agreed a previously unknown CNBC source. “It can be more difficult for newcomers – especially to secure school places.”
Challenges aside, BNO visa holders who spoke to CNBC said they were grateful for the program, which, while not an obligation, was certainly a “duty” of the UK government. Above all, he praised the potential it presents for a brighter future.
“After coming right here, my son will get a whole lot of freedom, [including] Freedom to drive,” Leung said, adding that he and his family have adjusted well to the lifestyle, neighborhood and work environment in Durham.
96 percent of those who have obtained BNO visas say they have no plans to return to Hong Kong. According to Home Office data, BNO visa holders are eligible to apply for permanent residence and indefinite leave to stay after five years at a cost of £2,389. The following year, they can apply for British citizenship for £1,206.
Of course UK citizenship is our ultimate goal as I am in line with the values of this country.
“Certainly UK citizenship is our final aim, as I’m in step with the values of this nation,” Leung said, noting that the elderly relatives are one of his few remaining ties with Hong Kong. “If I might select, I might be right here completely.”
This is potentially bad news for Hong Kong, which in addition to losing many skilled local people faces a migrant exodus As foreign workers grew tired of the city’s Beijing-led zero-Covid policy.
“I do not assume it should get any higher,” another CNBC source said. “Hong Kong’s location is now carefully linked to China’s politics. That means growing authoritarianism.”