Residents of Hong Kong can apply, beginning on Sunday, for a brand new visa providing them a chance to grow to be British residents as the UK opens its doorways to these wanting to flee China’s crackdown on dissent within the semi-autonomous metropolis.

From Sunday afternoon, anybody with a British Nationwide Abroad (BNO) passport and their dependents will have the ability to apply on-line for a visa permitting them to dwell and work within the UK. After 5 years, they will then apply for citizenship.

The visa scheme is a response to Beijing’s determination final 12 months to impose a sweeping nationwide safety legislation on Hong Kong, a former British colony, to snuff out enormous and typically violent pro-democracy protests.

The UK mentioned the legislation – which punishes subversion, collusion, terrorism and collusion with international forces – breaches the phrases of agreements underneath which Hong Kong was handed again to China in 1997. London has argued it has an ethical responsibility to the individuals of Hong Kong.

“We now have honoured our profound ties of historical past and friendship with the individuals of Hong Kong, and now we have stood up for freedom and autonomy,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned of the scheme this week.

China has reacted with fury to the visa supply.

On Friday, it introduced BNO passports would now not be recognised as a authentic journey or ID doc.

The transfer was largely symbolic as Hong Kongers have a tendency to make use of their very own passports or ID playing cards to depart the town.

However Beijing mentioned it was ready to take “additional measures”, elevating fears authorities would possibly attempt to cease residents of Hong Kong from leaving for the UK.

Hundreds flee Hong Kong

Cindy, a businesswoman and mom of two younger youngsters, left Hong Kong for London final week.

“To uproot ourselves like that is positively not straightforward. However issues obtained uglier final 12 months, the federal government was actually driving us away,” she advised The Related Press information company, declining to present her household title as a result of she feared repercussions for talking out towards the Chinese language authorities.

“Every little thing we worth – freedom of speech, honest elections, liberties – has been eroded. It’s now not the Hong Kong we knew, it’s now not someplace we are able to name residence.”

The UK predicted as much as 154,000 Hong Kongers might arrive through the subsequent 12 months and as many as 322,000 throughout 5 years, bringing an estimated “internet profit” of as much as 2.9 billion kilos ($4bn).

Earlier this week, the British authorities mentioned some 7,000 Hong Kong individuals with BNO standing have arrived within the nation since July. They moved underneath a separate Go away Exterior the Guidelines system, and also will have the ability to apply for the pathway-to-citizenship visas.

The UK launched BNO passports within the Nineteen Eighties for individuals who had been a “British dependent territories citizen by reference to Hong Kong”.

Many residents of the town on the time wished the UK to grant them full citizenship however China was against the transfer. The BNO was a compromise, permitting Hong Kong individuals born earlier than 1997 the precise to remain within the UK for six months at a time, however with no working or settling rights.

Now, it has grow to be one of many few methods out for Hong Kong individuals hoping to start out a brand new life abroad as authorities conduct mass arrests towards democracy supporters and transfer to purge the stressed metropolis of dissenting views.

“I feel when you knew when to close up, you’ll be OK staying in Hong Kong,” mentioned 39-year-old Fan, who additionally just lately arrived in London. “However I don’t need to do this. I can complain concerning the queen if I wished to – I can say something right here.”

Fan, an animator, advised AP that he offered his flat in Hong Kong and plans to slowly construct a brand new life within the UK – a rustic he had by no means even visited earlier than. He is not going to be alone in ranging from scratch.

‘Lifeboat’

Underneath the visa scheme, these hoping to maneuver have to indicate they’ve sufficient funds to maintain each themselves and their dependents for a minimum of six months.

Hong Kongers already within the UK who’re concerned in serving to others relocate say lots of the early candidates are usually educated middle-class individuals, typically with younger households, who’ve sufficient liquidity to finance their transfer.

“Most individuals we spoke with are households with main faculty or nursery age children,” Nic, an activist with a bunch referred to as Lion Rock Hill UK, advised the AFP information company, asking for anonymity.

Mike, a medical scientist who just lately relocated together with his household to the town of Manchester, advised AFP the that BNO passport “is unquestionably a lifeboat for Hong Kongers”.

He mentioned many in Hong Kong feared China would possibly cease residents leaving the territory.

“So, it’s higher to depart as quickly as potential,” he added.