HONG KONG — Thousands of people from Hong Kong are fleeing their hometown since Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the territory last summer.
Many say China’s encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties has become unbearable, and they want to seek a better future for their children abroad.
An exodus has begun to Britain, with many taking advantage of a new immigration pathway that will allow up to 5 million eligible Hong Kongers to live, work and eventually settle in the U.K.
Applications for the British National Overseas visa officially opened Sunday, and Britain's government estimates that over 300,000 people will take up the offer of extended residency rights in the next five years.
“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,” said U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a statement. “In doing so we have honoured our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong, and we have stood up for freedom and autonomy – values both the UK and Hong Kong hold dear.”
China responded by derecognizing U.K.-issued special travel documents. It’s unclear what effect that announcement will have because many Hong Kong residents carry multiple passports.