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Why Britain's anti-immigration politicians are opening the doors to thousands of Hong Kongers

February 21, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 21.3%. 2 min read.

The BN(O) scheme for Hong Kong nationals is remarkable in its scope as it's also remarkable for another reason: it has been pioneered by the same British politicians who engineered the UK's break from the European Union, in part, to curb immigration.

In its wake, the UK has opened a six-year pathway to British citizenship for holders of British National (Overseas) passports (BN(O)), a special visa category created for Hong Kong nationals before the 1997 transfer of power.

And critics say it is predicated on a flawed idea of Hong Kongers as a "model minority" who will need no support to settle into a new life in the UK.

Last month, Priti Patel, now the Home Secretary, said she looked forward to welcoming Hong Kongers "to our great country. " Yet in 2016, Patel campaigned against what she described as "uncontrolled migration" from the EU, and last year she is reported to have considered plans to send those seeking asylum in the UK to two Atlantic islands more than 4,000 miles away.

Some of Brexit's biggest backers are championing the scheme "in a pretty explicit break with the approach of [Margaret] Thatcher in the run up to 1997," Portes said, explaining that the late UK Prime Minister "wanted to limit, as much as possible, the number of Hong Kong Chinese who came here, because of her wider anti-immigration views. "

Perhaps one of the reasons the Hong Kong visa scheme has been so lauded is that its recipients are also being sold to the British public by hardline Brexiteers as a caricatured model minority, say critics.

And there is no nationwide integration plan for the Hong Kongers who emigrate under the new scheme, according to Fred Wong, who works with Hong Kong ARC, a civil society group which offers Hong Kongers legal and mental health support.

"The UK government is working alongside civil society groups, local authorities and others to support the effective integration of BN(O) status holders and their families who choose to make our United Kingdom their home," UKs Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster, told CNN in a statement.

London-based Hong Kong Watch and 10 other civil society groups wrote to the government in January expressing concern about the lack of a "meaningful plan in place to ensure that the new arrivals properly integrate . . .

In the meantime, up to 350 Hong Kong dissidents between the ages of 18 and 24 are believed to be currently "stuck in limbo" in the UK, according to Wong from Hong Kong ARC.

Some are in the country on tourist visas, biding their time until the UK government creates a policy that considers them, or until Canada begins its planned work-visa pathway for young Hong Kong dissidents.

He hopes to apply for college once he gains asylum, but in the meantime has started to financially support around 20 dissidents in the UK and Hong Kong.

Hong Konger Sze, who asked CNN not to use her full name because her family still lives in Hong Kong, quit her job as a high school geography teacher and came to the UK in October on holiday to visit some friends.

The 28-year-old said China's incursion into everyday life in Hong Kong had influenced her decision to stay, as had the fact that being in the UK means she has the "freedom to do what I want and even protest every week," without fear of political retribution.

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