Hong Kong Student to Use BN(O) Visa As Pathway to U.K. Citizenship

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Hong Kong Student to Use BN(O) Visa As Pathway to U.K. Citizenship” – below is their description.

    The U.K. said it received at least 34,000 BN(O) visa applications since it offered a path to citizenship to Hong Kong people. For many, China’s move to impose a national security law on the city has been a catalyst to consider leaving, potentially for good.

    Lincoln Chong, 26, said he plans to take the offer as Beijing tightens its grip.

    When Lincoln got his old, expired passport from his father, he didn’t know it could mean a lot more than a historical document. The British National (Overseas) passport he got when he was 2 years old has now become a ticket to obtain citizenship in the U.K., and a way to leave his hometown.

    He is working on a master’s degree in a social science, studying Eastern Europe politics, and he is interested in international politics and relations.

    Lincoln arrived in the U.K. last December on student visa. He is aware of the BN(O) visa pathway but cannot proceed until his student visa expires. He thinks the pathway to U.K. citizenship is the best thing the British government has offered to its former colony.

    “It’s pretty straightforward and you don’t need a lot of money. Basically, just pay the NHS.,” said Lincoln. He has always dreamt of studying in the U.K., and thinks it’s a good opportunity to try something new.

    Many of Lincoln’s friends are also thinking of leaving Hong Kong, as they feel disappointed in the city they grew up in, especially after the political turmoil in 2019.

    He witnessed the violent scenes in the months-long protest. The protests were triggered by people’s opposition to the extradition bill that could bring suspects from Hong Kong to China’s legal system. It’s the very first time Lincoln has seen a massive social movement of that scale. “I mean everyone in Hong Kong, they have participated in a certain way,” he said.

    Lincoln thinks there’s a lot of underlying cause for this protest, and the biggest one is the dissatisfaction of the people towards the government.

    After the enactment of the national security law that has put almost all opposition figures in Hong Kong to jail, the government has also imposed national education to schools to teach kids to be loyal to China.

    “That’s not something we are looking for because we were promised that there will be 50 years of high autonomy — one country, two systems,” said Lincoln.

    Before pursuing his master’s degree, Lincoln graduated in a local university and was a digital marketer for a publisher. However, most young professionals like him have struggled to with the high cost of living.

    Although Lincoln is looking for a new start in his career, he is worried it will be tough in the U.K., especially at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the economies in many countries.

    The U.K. government has launched a £37.3 million ($52.8 million) welcome programme to Hong Kong BN(O) passport holders in the country, but he is worried if newcomers from Hong Kong will truly be welcome.

    Lincoln said he doesn’t plan to return to Hong Kong in short term, as he is not sure if there may be possible backlash from China. China has imposed measures in retaliation to U.K.’s visa offer, saying China would not recognize BN(O) passports as a valid travel document and there have been rumors about China’s plan to ban BN(O) passport holders from running for public office or work as a civil servants.

    Lincoln hopes the U.K. government can eventually open its doors to the younger generation in Hong Kong, the people in the age group who are most engaged in the pro-democracy protests. “I feel very sorry to those who are born after 1997, which they don’t have any rights to stay here in the U.K,” he said.

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