BNO is a critical lifeline for 3 million Hong Kong people
British National Overseas (BNO) is a critical path for many Hong Kong (HK) people to emegrate to the UK. It is a very difficult decision to leave behind your community and seek refuge in another: HK protesters opinion is that there is no future for HK under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
HK protesters uphold the international treaty the Joint Declaration and the rule OF law: the CCP and HK government violate the Joint Declaration by using CCP's arbitrary rule BY law.
Because of the CCP and HK government's brutal oppression and enactment on 1 July 2020 of the illegal national security law many HK people are emigrating. CCP killed and ate the goose that laid the gold: now what?
So much for the 're-unification of China' under CCP's 'One China' policy!
BNO lifeline for Hong Kong people｜Emily Lau
Apple Daily 3 February 2021
On January 31 the UK government kept its promise by beginning to accept applications for BNO Visa from Hong Kong people. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the BNO Visa scheme in July last year, many people were stunned with incredulity. After fighting for the right of abode for BNO passport holders for many years, they could hardly believe it was really going to happen.
Johnson said the UK government took the decision because the Chinese government imposed the National Security Law (NSL) on Hong Kong on June 30, which London considered to be in breach of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Even before Britain began accepting applications for BNO Visa, about 7,000 BNOs and their dependants had arrived in the UK under the Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) arrangement, which allows them to remain and work in the UK for six months.
There are almost 3 million British Nationals (Overseas) in Hong Kong. These people and their dependants are eligible to apply for the BNO Visa, which will allow them to stay in the UK for up to five years, with the right to work and study, and to apply for British citizenship after six years.
The BNO Visa scheme is flexible and user friendly, as it allows successful family applicants to stagger their arrivals to the UK so one parent can remain in Hong Kong to continue earning an income while the other leaves for the UK with their dependants. If both parents are BNOs, they can apply for the Visa separately, and leave for the UK at different times.
Many Hong Kong people are excited about the offer, particularly those who are worried about the future and are looking for a place to emigrate. Many anxious parents particularly welcome this escape route, which they hope could give their children a free, safe and stable future.
The Chinese government is furious and castigated London for violating China’s sovereignty and interfering in China and Hong Kong’s affairs, and reducing Hong Kong people to second-class citizens. It also said it would not recognize BNO passports as travel and identification documents. I hope Beijing will not take actions to harm the interest of Hong Kong people. After all, they are victims of the current horrific situation. If things have not deteriorated so sharply, many people would not want to up sticks and move to other places.
Echoing Beijing’s condemnation, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah and Chairperson of the New People’s Party Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee referred to a 2008 quote from former UK attorney general Lord Goldsmith, who said giving BNO passport holders full British citizenship could be a breach of the Sino British Joint Declaration.
Unfortunately both Cheng and Ip have got it wrong. In February 2020, Lord Goldsmith wrote to the Home Secretary Priti Patel complaining his opinion on BNO has been misquoted. “It is my view that the UK government can extend full right of abode to BNO passport holders without breaching its side of the Sino British Joint Declaration,” Lord Goldsmith told the UK government.
It is no secret that for many years, the UK government did not want to give right of abode to the BNOs. When responding to multiple petitions on BNO, it decided to use Lord Goldsmith’s 2008 Citizenship report to say that automatically giving BNO full British citizenship would be a breach of the commitments made in the Joint Declaration. When the matter came to a head in 2020, Lord Goldsmith told the UK government to retract the false statement and not to repeat it. Little did he know that he would be misquoted in Hong Kong in 2021.
As the UK government began accepting applications for BNO Visa, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told CNBC News she did not think 2 million people would move to Britain, but she would respect the people’s right to emigrate.
It is difficult to second guess how many Hong Kong people will move to the UK or other countries. A lot depends on how quickly the situation deteriorates. Because of the pan democrats’ landslide victory in the November 2019 district council election, plans are afoot in Beijing to deal with the district council members. One move is to disqualify many pro-democracy district council members after the law on oath taking is amended by the Legislative Council next month. These people will be thrown out of office for breaching the oath.
There are also news reports that when the National People’s Congress holds its annual plenary session in Beijing in early March, it will approve proposals to amend Hong Kong laws to take away powers of district council members. This includes the power to elect among themselves 117 members to the 1,200-member Chief Executive Election Committee. This committee will elect the next Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in March 2022. The district councils may also be stripped of the power to approve funding for local projects.
The five so-called super seats in the Legislative Council in which only district council members can stand as candidates but are chosen by universal suffrage may also be abolished, to be replaced by five traditional functional constituencies which have limited franchise, including corporate votes.
Other Legislative Council election methods may also be amended to make it difficult for opposition candidates to get elected. In short, Beijing wants to annihilate opposition voices and assert total and complete control. If and when that happens, more and more people will be disillusioned and alarmed. The queue for BNO Visa and emigration to other countries will surely lengthen.
(Emily Lau, Chairperson, International Affairs Committee of the Democratic Party)