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UK-China tensions simmer over new Hong Kong visas

By Serena Atkinson and Lawrence Ye Mar. 17, 2021


Nicole Kim Art


Since Jan. 31, Hong Kong residents have been able to apply for new British visas that will allow them and their dependents to become British citizens. The U.K.’s announcement is part of a series of actions intended to clarify its opposing stance towards China’s foreign policies: it has already suspended an extradition treaty with Hong Kong and banned 5G networks from Chinese telecommunications company Huawei.

The new visa is open to all Hong Kong residents born before 1997 who hold a British National Overseas (BNO) passport. According to the BBC, 2.9 million Hong Kong citizens and 2.3 million of their dependents are eligible to move to the U.K. under the program, and NPR reports that about 258,000 to 322,400 people are expected to use the new visa within five years.

“Many Hong Kong protesters have left the region through BNO passports to escape the Chinese government. Although my family has already left Hong Kong, I would definitely consider moving to a different country if I were still living there for more freedom,” Freshman Hailey Tan said.

The visa is intended to show the U.K.’s support towards Hong Kong and strengthen their relationship.

The visa is intended to show the U.K.’s support towards Hong Kong and strengthen their relationship. According to the BBC, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that the visa reflected the countries’ shared values of freedom and autonomy as China encroached on Hong Kong’s self-government. For example, a national security law passed in June 2020 was widely criticized for suppressing protests and freedom of speech. The law was passed in wake of anti-government protests in Hong Kong against a potential extradition bill that would force Hong Kong to extradite people to countries it does not have such treaties with. Many protestors faced police violence or detainment for being pro-democracy, and The Atlantic reports that the new national security law was interpreted as further disregarding the “one country, two systems” agreement where autonomous regions such as Hong Kong and Macau can keep their own economic and administrative systems separate from mainland China.

The new program has faced criticism from both China and other countries. The BBC stated that the visa is somewhat limiting because China’s national security law targets young protesters, most of whom do not have BNO passports, and thus will not protect them. Additionally, in retaliation to the announcement, China announced that it will no longer accept BNO passports as travel documents, though The Washington Post noted that this was most likely symbolic because Hong Kong residents do not use BNO passports when traveling to and from China. Additionally, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, condemned the visa program during a press briefing and stated the U.K. was breaking the terms under which it returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, and that the program violated both China’s sovereignty and international law. Zhao noted that the Chinese government reserved the right to take further action if necessary, possibly referring to plans to deny the right of abode to people with dual citizenship proposed by pro-Beijing officials.

As China quickly condemned the move as an encroachment of its authority over Hong Kong, the U.K. and other countries see the disintegration of Hong Kong’s unique autonomy as a threat to democracy and a violation of the historic “one country, two systems” agreement.

“The relationship between China and the U.K. is already very complex and contentious due to their opposing views on Hong Kong’s autonomy. This new visa program will make their relationship even more complicated in the future because each side is doing what it thinks is right for Hong Kong,” Senior Amritavarshini Chennapragada said.

The new visa program is an opportunity for Hong Kong residents to flee their changing homeland as the U.K. reaffirms its social and cultural ties with its former colony. As China quickly condemned the move as an encroachment of its authority over Hong Kong, the U.K. and other countries see the disintegration of Hong Kong’s unique autonomy as a threat to democracy and a violation of the historic “one country, two systems” agreement.

 

About the Contributors

Serena Atkinson

Staff Writer


Serena is a senior and this is her third year as a staff writer. She likes the Clash, kitchen-sink drama films, and looking at birds that are in her backyard.









Lawrence Ye

Staff Writer


Lawrence Ye is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for the Leland Charger Account. He likes to swim and travel and loves his pets, Simon and Meatball.

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