Hongkongers applying for BN(O) visas more than doubles in first quarter against year ago; rise comes as city passes Article 23 law

The number of Hongkongers applying for Britain’s bespoke immigration pathway in the first quarter of the year has more than doubled over the same period in 2023, reaching almost 30,000, an increase that comes after the city passed its domestic national security law.

The figure was the third-highest quarterly figure since the immigration route was launched in January 2021.

The United Kingdom government said it had received 29,571 out-of-country British National (Overseas) visa applications between January and March, a 150.6 per cent increase from the 11,800 logged in the same period last year.

So far, 144,400 people have arrived in the UK since the scheme was launched in 2021.

The latest rise in applications coincided with the passage of Hong Kong’s home-grown national security law.

Authorities launched a one-month public consultation on the legislation, mandated by Article 23 of the city’s Basic Law mini-constitution, on January 30, and the law was passed on March 22.

The new Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, which complemented a similar law Beijing imposed on the city in 2020, introduced 39 offences divided into five categories: treason; insurrection, incitement to mutiny and disaffection, and acts with seditious intention; sabotage; external interference; and theft of state secrets and espionage.

The UK launched the BN(O) scheme for Hongkongers in January 2021. Photo: Bloomberg

The UK launched the BN(O) scheme for Hongkongers in January 2021 in response to the Beijing-decreed legislation, which London called a “clear and serious breach” of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that laid out the conditions for the city’s return to Chinese rule.

The law, enacted following anti-government protests in 2019, bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers.

The UK government had approved 201,877 BN(O) visas for Hongkongers as of March. Successful applicants will be allowed to work, study and live in Britain for six years, after which they will be eligible to apply for citizenship.


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