Hongkongers demonstrated in ten cities around the UK in protest of the Hong Kong National Security Law’s one-year anniversary and the centennial anniversary celebrations of China Communist Party.
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LONDON — It’s been nine months since Adrian Leung and his family packed up their lives in Hong Kong in search of a brighter future in Britain.
He was planning to relocate to Canada, along with his son and wife of 51 years. But when Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government announced a new visa program granting Hong Kong citizens the right to residency — and eventual citizenship — in the U.K., he said his choice was clear.
The criteria for Britain’s scheme are much more stringent than Canada’s. We only need to stay in Britain for at least five years. It’s easier for me,” Leung said to CNBC.
Hong Kongers are furious at China’s gripping on semi-autonomous Hong Kong in the wake a new initiative. national security law passed in June 2020.
This law aims at prohibiting secession and subversion of state powerThe widespread condemnation of, is widespread Western governments human rights watchdogsAs a result, it is threatening the “one nation, two systems” principle that was used to transfer the British colony to China in 1997.
This led Britain to offer asylum to Hong Kong’s natives before the handover. While the exact number of those who have fled is unknown due to security law, Britain made its offer for asylum for that purpose only and it was precisely timed. According to the U.K., it has promised that Hong Kong’s citizens born before its handover will be supported. “China’s failure to live up to its international obligations with respect to Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong’s information service department spokesperson said they “deplore and oppose” the U.K. Visa launch. The Chinese embassy in London however stated that it interferes with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
China has denied claims that it undermines local freedoms. However, the Chinese government said the law was necessary in order to end chaos. mass protests This was what hampered Hong Kong in 2019,
Leung was one of the tens or thousands of Hong Kongers who emigrated to Britain over the last year. Some of his students were arrested and even imprisoned.
Leung said that he felt it was clear to him, “It seemed to us, after June 2019, Hong Kong wasn’t going to be subject to the rule of law.” He was referring to the beginning of protests. He told CNBC, “For my son’s future, I believed we needed to leave.”
Johnson spoke with great pride about the British National (Overseas), or BNO visa program that was launched in January 2021 to celebrate Britain’s “profound connections of history, friendship, and solidarity with Hong Kong.”
At the time, the U.K government stated that it would allow access to between 300,000 and 500,000 Hong Kongers. However, up to 5.4million are also eligible. £2.9 billion ($3.9 billion) of net benefit to the U.K. economyOver five years.
Adrian Leung, his wife and their son, moved to Durham (U.K.) in June 2021 shortly after the opening of BNO visas by the British National Office for Hong Kong nationals.
Over the past 12 months, the U.K. had received 103.900 applications to the visa program. The program entitles holders (and their dependents) to five years residence and a pathway towards citizenship. The U.K. has received more than 97,000 successful applications so far, according to data released Thursday by the U.K.’s home office.
Most of these applicants have high-skilled jobs in managerial or professional positions.
A survey of 500 visa applicants revealed that the majority granted them the visa. the home office foundSeven in ten (69%) of those interviewed had a university education, while three quarters (76%) held professional jobs. Nearly all (96%) were working-age, and only 21% (21%) had less than 35 years.
This is a positive result for the U.K. government in its efforts to attract international talent even though it will close its doors for EU workers. CNBC spoke with Hong Kong expatriates who had a far different experience.
BNO visa holders were pleased with the speed at which their applications were processed, usually in six weeks. However, some people felt that the process was slow. personal costs of making the move have been high — not least financially.
The five-year visa costs £250 ($340) in addition to a mandatory NHS surcharge of £3,120 for adults and £2,350 for children. A family of four could expect to fork out £11,940 in fees before they even enter the United Kingdom.
As Britain confronts its challenges, worst cost of living crisis in decadesDespite spiraling energy, food, and house prices.
Leung and his spouse sold their apartment and cashed in their retirements. They used the savings they had to finance their move to Britain. Although they recently purchased a Durham home, northeast England property, not all have been so fortunate.
In December 2020, nurse KT from Hong Kong moved to Nottingham, England, at the peak of coronavirus lockdowns in the U.K.
One BNO visa holder, who spoke to CNBC anonymously due to fear of a backlash or being identified by new colleagues in Britain, arrived in Nottingham, England, in December 2020 — during the height of the U.K.’s coronavirus lockdown.
Source quickly realized he was in a trap: unable rent a property without a bank, and unable open a banking account without a residential address.
Six weeks spent in an Airbnb and the 45 year-old eventually found a landlord willing to rent his apartment for him and his family. The dispute over his pension means that his pension is still being held in Hong Kong.
Source: “Money and salary are not our top priorities.” The source said that he, his wife and their nursing job in Hong Kong were leaving to seek “democracy rule of law civil liberties, respect” and “democracy.”
CNBC reached out to the information services section of Hong Kong and London’s Chinese Embassy for clarification.
The source, like many skilled Hong Kong immigrants in Britain was forced to sacrifice his professional and financial stability for political safety. While he is now working part-time as an employee in a hospital, his wife works at a warehouse.
He stated, “I had an extra year in my life,” and that he has been saving for the future.
CNBC’s second source discovered that he was not qualified for the majority of available jobs. A Ph.D.-educated lecturer at a university decided to flee Hong Kong because the “human rights situation in Hong Kong had deteriorated to the point where his future as a father and my mental health were threatened.”
The 51-year old secured part-time employment at a well-known central London fast-food chain after a six-month search.
“If I did not have children, my consideration might be different because, coming here, I have had to give up everything — work, money, friends, status,” the second source said, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
BNO visa holders cannot be eligible for welfare benefits, unless it is necessary in extreme cases. It was instead stated by the government set aside £43 millionFor integration projects in Hong Kong for diaspora. This includes support for housing, employment, and education.
The second anonymous source stated that although better plans might have been made in anticipation of the sudden influx Hong Kong workers arriving, he considers himself to be “lucky”.
He arrived in London in June 2021 and secured his place at “very good” state school in London for his daughter and son.
Adrian Leung fled Hong Kong for a better life and his 10-year-old son is living in greater freedoms in Britain.
My initial goal was to assist the children in their adjustment. He was surprised to discover that they have adapted better than me,” and noted how the children quickly settled in to local friendship groups.
The competition for school spots is heating up after one year of the program. Some schools may be particularly vulnerable, according to some reports. Britain’s elite public schoolsDue to record interest and enrollment, a number of students from Hong Kong have been turned away. Three quarters of BNO visa holders arrive in Britain married, or have a long-term partner. Two-thirds are parents.
The first anonymous CNBC source said, “We are fortunate that we have settled a little earlier.” “It can be more difficult for newcomers — especially to secure school places.”
CNBC spoke with BNO visa holders, who said that despite the challenges, they are grateful for the U.K. government’s program. They were most excited about the brighter prospects it offers.
“My son has more freedom since he arrived here. [including]Leung said that the freedom to move is the best thing.” He also stated that his family has adapted well to Durham’s lifestyle, neighbourhood, and work environment.
The overwhelming majority of BNO visa holders say that they do not plan on returning to Hong Kong. according to Home Office data. BNO visa holders are eligible to apply for permanent residence and indefinite leave to remain after five years at a cost of £2,389. The following year, they can apply for British citizenship at £1,206.
Leung stated that U.K citizenship was his ultimate goal because he is in accord with the country’s values. He also noted that he has ties to Hong Kong through elderly relatives. If I had the choice, I’d choose to live in Hong Kong permanently.
This could spell bad news for Hong Kong. Hong Kong is losing skilled workers. faces an expat exodusAs foreign workers get tired of Beijing’s zero-Covid policies,
The second CNBC source stated that “I don’t think it will get worse.” “Hong Kong’s current space is tightly tied to China’s politics. This means that authoritarianism is growing.