U.K. Will Offer Citizenship to Escaping Hong Kongers

Protesters in Hong Kong demonstrate against a plan to allow extraditions to mainland China in 2019 / Getty Images
July 22, 2020

The United Kingdom has announced its intention to offer a special pathway to citizenship for escaping Hong Kongers, effective in January, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The British Home Office clarified in a statement that the policy will apply to Hong Kongers with a British National Overseas passport, along with their immediate family members, allowing them to move to Britain for either work or study. 

"Today's announcement shows the U.K. is keeping its word: We will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people," British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said.

The decision comes in response to a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong that completed Beijing's hostile takeover of Hong Kong autonomy, as well as a highly touted visit between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British policymakers on Tuesday. The visit touched on increasing cooperation on the issue of Hong Kong, among others.

"You've joined other free nations to condemn China's broken promises on the Sino-British treaty. You generously opened your doors to Hong Kongers who seek nothing more and fleeing just for some freedom," Pompeo said of Raab and his department on Tuesday. "And yesterday you suspended your extradition treaty and extended your arms embargo on China to Hong Kong itself. We support those sovereign choices; we think well done."

Britain is also in increasing lockstep with the United States on issues such as China's technological interference, declaring its intention to ban Huawei from future 5G network development.

Meanwhile, some American policymakers are actively considering similar measures for Hong Kong's political refugees. A flurry of bipartisan bills last month from both the Senate and the House proposed protections and refugee status for certain Hong Kongers, almost immediately following the imposition of the national security law from mainland China.

"Throughout history, from Iran to the Soviet Union, the United States has looked out for persecuted populations looking for basic human freedoms," Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.)  said last month. "With the recently enacted National Security Law in Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party has shown their true colors as they ignore international agreements and suffocate the freedoms of millions."