On Tuesday of last week, China imposed a sweeping new national security law upon the formerly British city of Hong Kong. The city was transferred from the U.K. to China in 1997. An agreement between the United Kingdom and China guaranteed a Western-style rule of law and protection of civil rights in the city for 50 years. But China has been decisively extending its communist control over the metropolis of seven million, and the 50 years is not up.
Within hours of the new law’s confirmation, Chinese police arrested nearly 300 protesters in Hong Kong. They were charged with crimes against the government for carrying flags and signs that promoted independence or displayed the British flag.
Britain called the law a flagrant breach of China’s international obligations and a “clear and serious violation” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. (Sino comes from Latin and refers to anything Chinese.) The U.K. promised a formal, action-oriented response to China’s new restrictive law.
On Wednesday, Britain announced that it would uphold its historic duty to the former British colony by making immigration to the U.K. easier for Hong Kongers. It extended residency rights for up to three million citizens of Hong Kong. That’s almost half the current population.
That many Hong Kongers already are eligible for the British National Overseas passport. The passport permits them to travel to the U.K. Those individuals may also now begin a path toward becoming British citizens, if they choose to do so.
Here’s how it works: Eligible people from Hong Kong will have the right to live and work in the U.K. for five years. After that, they will be allowed to apply for “settled status” and then again for citizenship. Sadly, the option is offered only to those Hong Kongers who were born before the 1997 transfer. That leaves out many of the young adults and students who are actively protesting and asking for the right to live free. And it’s those young adults who are at most risk of arrest under the new law.
Moving to a new place halfway around the world would be very difficult. Leaving behind a culture and a history and even worse—extended family—may be more than some can do. But living under the oppression of communism is almost certainly the cost of staying.
(A person displays the Hong Kong colonial flag on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. The previous day, China had enacted a national security law that cracks down on protests and calls for liberty in the territory. AP Photo/Kin Cheung)