There are three main responses to the UK’s decision to admit any Hongkonger eligible for a BNO passport.
First, there’s China’s official, ever-charming ‘Immediately Correct Your Mistakes!!’ panda-tantrum, denouncing the move as breaking an (unspecified) international law. (Not a bad spouting of mouth-froth considering the amount of freaking-out Beijing has just been through with the UK’s Huawei and extradition decisions.)
Second, there’s grumbling among many supporters and sympathizers of Hong Kong and the protest movement. The package could have been better….
It is true that the process is bureaucratic (full details here) and lengthy, plus there are quite a few fees, and anyone born since 1997 doesn’t qualify as BNO (though they can be a dependent). So it’s not exactly frontliner-friendly. They could just convert BNO into full citizenship automatically – but feel more comfortable erecting hurdles to encourage serious applications only, please.
The third response is to faint in amazement.
Roughly 30 years ago, back in the Thatcher era, this plan would have been unthinkable. Immigration was a toxic vote-losing subject in Britain in those days. The venerable hong I worked for joined a campaign to lobby London to give full citizenship to Hong Kong workers who would otherwise leave for Canada or Australia. The big selling points for UK politicians were that recipients would probably not sully the green and pleasant land with their presence – they just needed an ‘insurance policy’ – and it would help British-owned businesses in Hong Kong. The UK eventually grudgingly granted this right of abode to 50,000 people plus dependents (was Carrie Lam one?), and everyone agreed this was jolly decent of the chaps in Whitehall.
The 2020 scheme, from Home Secretary and latter-day Thatcherite Priti Patel, could in theory cover some 3 million people – and the Great British public and populist-alarmist media couldn’t care less. That’s almost as hard to take in as the concept of a British (or any) government doing something primarily on the grounds that it’s morally right. There’s even talk of Priti, who I suspect is not usually very keen on anti-establishment teenagers, setting up a separate immigration route for Hong Kong’s under-23s.
Obviously the British are not acting out of pure principle. An influx of Hongkongers would reputedly do wonders for the economy. And the UK wants places like Canada to open their doors to Hong Kongers too. (Similar calculations came into play when the UK admitted South Asians expelled from East Africa 50 years ago. And, acting on a hunch, I check Wikipedia and find Patel’s parents were Ugandan Indian.)
Still, of all the shocking things happening in 2020, this is probably the least horrible.
But best of all – Beijing is massively miffed. The Hong Kong government is of course required to join in with one of its special CCP-ized press statements…
…it is hypocritical for the UK to deliberately violate its pledge made in the British memorandum associated with the Sino-British Joint Declaration paying no regard to the Chinese firm opposition and repeated representations, and insist on using the BN(O) passport or status which some people in Hong Kong still hold for political maneuver on the pretext of changing the policy to provide a route for relevant persons to reside and obtain citizenship in the UK.
Took me a few-re-readings. In essence: ‘it is hypocritical of the UK to change its immigration rules this way as a political maneuver’. (Read the whole thing for an idea of how much the HK Govt Information Services people are taking dictation from the National Security Office – from warped non-logic to overlong blathering to shrill hectoring diatribe to crummy grammar, plus Mainland-style US spelling. Out of either deference or defiance, they are not cleaning up the junk copy.)
We don’t declare weekends open around here now; in the world of retirement, every day is the weekend. But a little light reading for the next few days.
From Transit Jam, the anti-pedestrian psychos strike again. A minor thing as the city lapses into totalitarianism. But if there was ever a good time to give a damn about Hong Kong’s quality of life, this is surely it.
Which leads us neatly to the question of how finance, arbitration and other industries will weigh up the pros and cons of staying in Hong Kong versus moving to authoritarian SIngapore – in terms of restrictions on freedom of information and weak rule of law. On balance, a Bangkok Post column says SIngapore could be safer. Hong Kong, you could incur the wrath of the CCP and its huge secret police state by voicing any criticism of the world’s last remaining empire. Little Singapore, on the other hand, will persecute you only if you upset the Li family by disputing their genetic predisposition to wonderfulness – an issue most bankers can happily ignore.
From Christopher Balding, the China doves have turned into China pigeons.
ECFR detects signs that even the Euro-Weenies are going off China.
A foreign policy-wonk think-tank thing about how Japan should join the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance. You might shrug – but Beijing would go nuts. Now add Taiwan too.