UK's Hong Kong Visa Scheme Must Be Part of Wider Review

22 Feb 2021 12:13 PM


By opening up to Hong Kong, the UK reveals inconsistencies in its asylum and immigration systems which, without action, could risk more political division.

Described by UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab as a ‘matter of principle’ and a ‘historic responsibility’, the UK’s decision to open an immigration pathway to citizenship for Hong Kong BN(O) (British National Overseas) status holders is unprecedented and unique – for its scale, its welcoming political rhetoric, and its geopolitical weight.

However, the rollout of this new visa scheme should not occur in isolation, because inconsistencies within British asylum and immigration policies can send a clear and unfortunate message that some refugees and migrants are viewed as more welcome than others.

Extending a safe haven to Hong Kong citizens at risk of political persecution is the right thing to do, but extending it to people at risk of persecution based on consistent, transparent, and solidary asylum and immigration systems is the better thing to do.

First announced in response to China’s introduction of a National Security Law to curb civil liberties in Hong Kong following a year of pro-democracy protests, previously BN(O) status did not confer rights to residents of the former British colony to emigrate to the UK. And this new, rather unique, treatment can be a dangerous route that sets the UK up for trouble with both China and other nations in the future.

Click here to continue reading the full version of this Expert Comment on the Chatham House website.