LONDON (AP) — Thousands of people from Hong Kong are fleeing their hometown since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the territory last summer.
Many say China’s encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties has become unbearable, and they want to seek a better future for their children abroad. An exodus has begun to Britain, with many taking advantage of a new immigration pathway that would allow up to 5 million eligible Hong Kongers to live, work and eventually settle in the U.K.
Applications for the British National Overseas visa officially open Sunday, and Britain's government estimates that over 300,000 people will take up the offer of extended residency rights in the next five years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week the offer shows Britain is honoring its “profound ties of history” with Hong Kong, a former colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 on the understanding that it would retain its Western-style freedoms and much of its political autonomy not seen on mainland China.
China responded by derecognizing U.K.-issued special travel documents.