Hong Kong migration plan would benefit UK – but only if handled carefully

By Mason Quah

HONG KONG advocacy groups have raised concerns about the security of the Government’s new Hong Kong BN(O) visa the scheme and the measures taken to support resettled groups.

In a survey conducted by Hong Kongers in Britain (HKB), more than eighty per cent of the respondents held concerns that the visa scheme would be used by informants and agents of the Chinese government.

Similar numbers were concerned that the Chinese and Hong Kong governments would pressure the UK to undermine the safety of British Hong Kongers.

A suggested solution by HKB in Britain is for the BNO visa to exclude access to current or former members of the Hong Kong government and police force.

The policy report also contains other prescriptions for how the UK government can best accommodate those using the visa.

If handled well, this brain drain could be a boon to the UK economy.

The population applying are highly educated and wealthier than the general population of the Special Administrative Region.

Their contribution to the UK economy should not be underestimated but there are difficulties they are liable to face in coming to the UK that will impede their ability to contribute.

The protests have led to both physical and psychiatric injuries that will require follow up treatment in the UK.

These vulnerable groups would benefit from their applications being fast tracked and given greater assistance.

Mental health strains are likely to be aggravated by the immigrants overwhelmingly lacking family and friends in the UK, cutting them off from the support infrastructure that would allow them to more effectively deal with trauma.

Hong Kongers in Britain also believe the British government will need to show clemency in their process of screening migrants with criminal records acquired during the protests.

A HKB spokesperson likened these criminal records to an act of persecution that should be protected against when they seek asylum.

HKB believes that many applicants will seek to move to Britain shortly after applications open, with 80% of respondents aiming to move within a year.

The spokesperson also explained that some respondents had already begun the process of liquidating their assets in Hong Kong to prepare for their departure.  

While the ongoing pandemic might deter some, the UK government should be prepared for a rush of applicants.

Following a series of arrests on the 6th of January targeting fifty pro-democracy figures, it is possible that this rush will be further amplified. HKB’s data suggests that of those leaving many do not feel Hong Kong is a safe place for them to continue living, and this is a primary motivation for leaving.

More mundane concerns should not be neglected. The primary issue most applicants anticipate are finding accommodation and employment.

The 80% travelling with children will further require space to be prepared in schools, requiring not only national but also local planning to be involved.  Some children have already been removed from schooling in Hong Kong over concerns of indoctrination.

This means that in addition to needing additional help integrating into new schools there may be need for them to be given additional support to catch up on missed schooling. This type of support might be more challenging to produce as schools work to adapt for distance learning.

The number of complexities to handling the needs of Hong Kong refugees are balanced by the potential gains they offer.

The largest field of study or work among applicants is business and finance, talents that London is hoping to attract as a post-Brexit financial powerhouse.

Hong Kong’s historic position as a trade hub in the region further means that this expertise could be utilised in building good relations with wider South-East Asia.

Applications for the new Hong Kong BN(O) visa will open on January 31.

Featured Image: Andrew Mercer @WikimediaCommons

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