Hong Kong

New U.K. Visa Scheme Would Allow 5.4 Million People To Escape Hong Kong

President Biden should also provide refuge for democracy lovers who want to escape authoritarian Chinese rule.


At the end of this month, the U.K. will officially introduce a new visa option that would give 5.4 million Hongkongers—or a little more than 70 percent of the territory's population—the ability to live and work in the U.K.

President Joe Biden, who took office yesterday and has already released a flurry of executive orders, should immediately follow the U.K.'s lead and offer visas to the roughly 7.5 million citizens of Hong Kong who have been crushed by Chinese intrusion that has permeated every corner of their once-free society.

The BBC reports that "the scheme is open to Hong Kong residents who claimed British National (Overseas), or BNO, status before the handover in 1997. A total of 2.9 million people registered and so can apply for the new visa."

"Their dependants—an additional two-and-a-half million people—are also eligible to travel with them," notes the BBC. Prior to this, people with BNO status could come to the U.K. for up to six months. With this rule change, they will now have the ability to do so for five years, then apply for settled status, then apply for citizenship.

Of course, the U.K. has more reason to look out for the plight of Hongkongers, given its complex history in the region: Hong Kong, formerly a British colony, was handed over to mainland China in 1997.

As I wrote earlier this month:

"When Britain handed the city over to China in 1997, a condition of the transfer was that Beijing would allow Hongkongers to maintain these political freedoms and a separately functioning system until 2047, at which point the agreement expires.

Beijing recently opted to seize control prematurely and suppress dissent, moves that have sparked months of protests and led to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people marching in the streets demanding that their freedoms be preserved."

Since the introduction of the vague national security law, an attempt by Beijing to suppress and criminalize all manners of dissent, activists and former legislators have been arrested, universities have culled faculty members, and some people have attempted to flee. The U.K. is right to allow people to seek refuge—something which very well may put its relationship with China on rockier footing—but more countries should immediately join the ranks.