The post-Brexit landscape in the U.K. has seen a growing sense of unease about the number of immigrants entering the country from the EU. Welcoming around three million Hong Kong residents into the U.K., while teetering on the brink of recession, could spell political disaster, argues Mikkie Mills

Life in Hong Kong as it is known to millions of people who call the city home has been changing since the handover of the island from British to Chinese ownership in 1997. The independent judiciary and status of the people of the island city of Hong Kong is under threat with the British Government looking at ways of protecting British Overseas Nationals. The status of these individuals, who could number upwards of three-million people, has been seen as a potential stumbling block between China and the U.K. in the post-Brexit world.

Following the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese Government, the new ruling nation introduced a mini-constitution that included the need for new security laws. There have been various attempts to introduce the security measures many people in Hong Kong fear will result in the erosion of their freedoms. The first of these attempts were made in 2003 when mass protests were held that resulted in their introduction being delayed.

CNN reports the Hong Kong Security Law, introduced again in early 2020, with the first details of the law causing problems for those hoping to protect the independence of the region. The main concern of the people of Hong Kong is the erosion of their rights. The law includes several new regulations, including:

  • The establishment of a national security office
  • Judges will be picked by top officials
  • Jurisdiction will be moved to Mainland China for some cases
  • Local laws cannot overrule the Security Law

The former Governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patton oversaw the handover to China in 1997 and warned of the potential for problems with Chinese security laws being introduced on the island. The response of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been praised by Lord Patton for his decision to allow those holding British Overseas National status the chance to enjoy a 12-month visa to live and work in the U.K.

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The enforcement of the introduction of the Hong Kong Security Law seems to be being forced through as Chinese officials try to put their stamp on the city and financial centre. In response to the potential loss of the human rights of the people of the city Prime Minister Johnson has been vocal in calling for the introduction of 12-month visas for those who hold British Overseas National status. The use of the visa for a gap year or to take the first steps on the path to citizenship seems to be one of the main areas of concern for Johnson in 2020.

Many issues are facing the island of Hong Kong, including the validity of the agreement that handed the city back to China. Within the agreement are a section protecting the rights of the citizens of Hong Kong from persecution and political arrest which has been highlighted by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in a statement to the U.K. Parliament.

The plan to provide recurring 12-month visas for those who hold British Overseas National status could bring another political issue to the feet of the Government of Prime Minister Johnson. The first major issue is the influx of immigrants that would potentially bring the 350,000 holders of these documents to the U.K. along with a further 2.5 million thought to be eligible for this status in the city.

The post-Brexit landscape in the U.K. has seen a growing sense of unhappiness about the number of immigrants entering the country from the European Union. Despite a landslide election victory in 2019, Boris Johnson has faced issues for his role in the apparent mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Welcoming around three million Hong Kong residents into the U.K. could spell political disaster for a nation teetering on the brink of recession.

The claims of the U.K. Government that a path to citizenship will be found for those wanting to leave Hong Kong have failed to consider the role of the Chinese Government. The Central Government is unlikely to allow around three million Hong Kong residents to leave the city at a time when the U.K. is looking for trade deals with China after leaving the European Union.

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