China slams UK fast-track visa for Hong Kongers as ‘interference’ in its affairs


Immigrants are ‘deluded’ and have ‘hard life’ on arrival, Chinese Embassy official says.

China slams UK fast-track visa for Hong Kongers as ‘interference’ in its affairs

A group of people bid farewell as their friend leaves for the United Kingdom at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, June 30, 2021.

China has criticized the British government’s new fast track visa service for emigrating Hong Kongers, accusing London of “manipulation” through its immigration policy.

“China has all along been opposed to the U.K.’s manipulation of the BNO visa scheme, which interferes in Hong Kong-related affairs and China’s internal affairs,” an embassy spokesperson said in a statement.

“We urge the U.K. to … stop staging its hypocritical shows, stop misleading people from Hong Kong and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs,” the Aug. 15 statement said.

The British Home Office on Aug. 14 launched a Priority Visa service for applicants to the British National Overseas visa scheme, which has offered a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship to millions of Hong Kongers since the Chinese Communist Party began a political crackdown in the city.

“From today, we are introducing a new Priority Visa service for our Hong Kong BN(O) route which will see visas processed in just 5 working days for those who need to travel urgently,” it said.

“It continues the U.K.’s unwavering commitment to the people of Hong Kong.”


The London-based rights group Hong Kong Watch welcomed the fast-track option, because it helps those who “urgently need to leave the city.”

But it said more needs to be done to offer a further “lifeboat” to those Hong Kongers who are ineligible for the BNO visa.

The group’s Chief Executive Benedict Rogers dismissed the Chinese Embassy statement as “aggressive and mendacious.”

He said the visa scheme was the “right step” in response to a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the Chinese Communist Party from July 2020.

“This latest new measure is a further very welcome effort to help Hong Kongers who need to get out quickly,” he said. “No amount of completely disproportionate fury from [China’s] ‘wolf warrior’ diplomats will change that.”

He said it is unclear whether the British government announced the move in response to any move by the Hong Kong authorities.

Luke de Pulford, executive director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, also welcomed the fast-track visa.

“There have been long and extremely inconvenient delays imposed upon Hong Kongers, some of [whom] have needed to leave Hong Kong very quickly, or have come to the U.K. and have found themselves in limbo while they’ve been waiting for their visa,” de Pulford told Radio Free Asia.

“But the fact this has been opened now, when the applications to the visa scheme are slowing down, may indicate that something is wrong,” he said.


Three months after the BNO scheme launched, Hong Kong’s government amended the city’s immigration laws to enable security chiefs to bar passengers from taking any form of transport in or out of the city, sparking concerns that it could be used to prevent people from leaving amid an ever-widening crackdown on public dissent and peaceful political opposition.

“It could be the U.K. government has realized the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government may be moving to try to prevent people from traveling,” de Pulford said. “We don’t know that, but there might be more to it than meets the eye, and we should all be on our guard.”

The Chinese embassy spokesman said the fast-track visa option was aimed at “smearing and disrupting Hong Kong,” calling those who had come to the U.K. on the scheme so far “deluded.”

The British government said in March it had received 172,500 applications for the BNO visa, which prompted China to de-recognize the BNO passport in protest in January 2021.

Hong Kong Watch has since said that Hong Kong banks are deliberately withholding up to US$2.4 billion in mandatory pension savings from Hong Kongers who have used the scheme.

The Chinese Embassy spokesperson claimed that Hong Kongers who do emigrate to Britain are having a hard time.

“Some deluded people left their home in Hong Kong and came to the U.K. only to find themselves facing a hard life full of discrimination,” the spokesperson said. “There are a large number of such cases around.”

‘Living in misery’

Chung Kim-wah, a former Hong Kong sociologist now living in the United Kingdom, said the Chinese Embassy’s bad-mouthing of those who flee Hong Kong is part of a broader attempt by Beijing’s propaganda machine to curb mass emigration from the city.

“[Local media] have reported claims from time to time that Hong Kongers are living in misery here, or are discriminated against,” Chung said. “However, these statements aren’t new.”

He said that he has heard occasional complaints from Hong Kongers about their employment situation, but he hasn’t heard of anyone who regrets making the move.

Nearly one in four Hong Kongers who fled to the United Kingdom have said they still suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome linked to the violent crackdown on the 2019 protests and the subsequent fear engendered by the national security law, according to a survey by the Hong Kongers in Britain advocacy group in May 2022.

Net departures of permanent residents from Hong Kong totaled 113,000 for the whole of 2022, prompting calls from media backed by the Communist Party for the government to act to stem the brain drain.

The city’s government has been handing out free plane tickets to visitors and offering work visas to attract professionals to replace those who have left, many of them from mainland China. The city’s population saw a sudden uptick in the year to the end of June, rising by 2.1%.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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