Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth

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.

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24 Responses to Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth

  1. Spud says:

    The HK Hermit tweet is absurd, the deal being given is far better than that of a born in the UK Citizen trying to go back with a non UK spouse – and with kids that also have a UK passport. The HK$80k in the bank is a mere 10% of what a spouse visa requires, also you must have accommodation in place, provide copies of the council tax bills in your name and you are required to submit an authorised survey to prove the place of abode is suitable for your family. On top of that you need to pay in advance for the NHS fees for the duration of the visa AND the visa application cannot be done from the UK, it must be done from overseas, you cannot turn up on a tourist visa and decide to apply.

    Not only that but if successful you then must “claim” your visa in person, in the UK, within 30 days. Oh and with a consultant and visa fee you are looking at $50k not counting the time taken to do all that stuff, flights to the UK to arrange housing etc..

    It is a real sweetheart deal, but for people who are accustomed to whining about negative equity or minibond losses it is par for the course.

  2. Just Following Orders says:

    @Spud:
    Spot on! For many British nationals with a HK Chinese spouse/partner, the new deal on offer has, undisputedly, just changed their lives for the better.

  3. Mark Bradley says:

    Except you two seem to forget that BNO are supposed to be british nationals not foreign nationals with no connection to the commonwealth. They should have been given automatic right of abode, not being treated as second class citizens.

    I am also unhappy about the fact that out of my entire circle of local friends only my wife doesn’t have a BNO because her parents didn’t apply because 1. They were ignorant and not well educated 2. They were working class and did not travel and 3. They couldn’t afford the bno registration fees.

    It’s a shitty deal for my wife who was born in the 1980s and was a minor during the time where you had to apply for the BNO and thus was dependent on her frankly unreliable parents. She was born a British overseas dependent territories citizen and should be given a BNO too. In fact every hker born before 1997 should have been given one.

  4. Low Profile says:

    If Britain needs China’s permission to admit Hong Kong residents as immigrants / potential citizens, why didn’t China need Canada’s permission before giving Chinese citizenship to Allen Zeman?

  5. George says:

    That para may have been translated from Mandarin by Google translate. Pure gibberish.

  6. where's my jet plane says:

    @Mark Bradley
    I think you will find that a HK birth certificate prior to 1997 is sufficient evidence of eligibilty – you don’t actually have to have a BNO passport. Sure the checks will be more detailed but it ain’t the end of the world.

  7. where's my jet plane says:

    As an aside; I had to laugh at this quote from a policeman in the SCMP in connection with alleged “false news”

    “He called on the public to try to verify any suspicious messages they received, and to pay attention to updates published by the government officials to avoid being misled.”

  8. dimuendo says:

    2nd attempt

    Mark Bradley

    My wife came to HK, as a domestic helper, long before 1997. She had, and she has, no rights in either HK or UK save as a result of marrying me. I was born in UK and am the first person in my family to have bred out of East Lancashire (which may explain a lot). I do not accept that somebody born in HK pre 1997 is any more deserving of “sympathy” or entitlement than somebody legitimately living here (albeit under restrictions) pre 1997. Your wife and her parents were in an infinitely better, freer, position than my wife

    Plus, as Spud says, we/she are not in an easy/enviable position now.

  9. Mark Bradley says:

    “I think you will find that a HK birth certificate prior to 1997 is sufficient evidence of eligibilty – you don’t actually have to have a BNO passport. Sure the checks will be more detailed but it ain’t the end of the world.”

    Seriously? Because from what I read, you have to register as a British National Overseas before 1997 to qualify??? Do you have a source or somewhere where I can read up more on this?!

  10. where's my jet plane says:

    Mark – Sadly I didn’t bookmark the reference. But this from https://www.gov.uk/guidance/british-nationals-overseas-in-hong-kong

    “To be eligible for this visa route you’ll need to show that you:
    have BN(O) status – you don’t need valid BN(O) passport to show this and you don’t need to request a new passport if it’s expired or has been lost
    normally live in Hong Kong
    So, it’s a question of is there BNO status if there was no registration before 1997. The impression I got from the source I can’t find (that was quoting an official statement) was that failure to register will not be a bar if a HK birth certificte is produced.
    Sorry if my interpretaion is wrong and I’ll keep looking for the source, however the consulate “should” be able to give you a definitive answer (maybe)

  11. Mary Melville says:

    The Transit Jam article does not mention the perfidy of Transport Department when it comes to the provision of parking spaces.
    A decade ago when the government wanted to flog off the Middle Road Car Park, TD produced a Traffic Impact Assessment based on data recorded at 9am, yes crack of dawn for TST. Even at the height of the retail boom malls started to open their doors around 11am and closed late evening. Despite strong objections, the DAB district councillor broke rank and stood with residents, Town Planning Board ignored the very legitimate cries of foul play and the plan was approved.
    Newly constructed commercial buildings have been approved with no parking facilities despite the fact that the HK Planning Standards and Guidelines mandates specific minimum provisions.
    Currently there is a on going consultation on excavating half of Kowloon Park to provide MORE SHOPS and “address the urgent need for parking facilities in the district”. TD data trotted out of course now supports the need for more parking.
    Demands that the plans for Kowloon Park be withdrawn as there are currently hundreds of vacant units in the district that can more than fulfill retail and community service needs for years to come have been rebuffed. Parking will now be the main justification.
    For sure similar shenanigans have resulted in the lack of parking spaces in other districts resulting in the footpath and street parking described in the article.
    But when you have an unaccountable administration that can rely on the co-opted system that can snatch away public facilities under its all pervasive powers then all we can expect are Band-Aid solutions that never resolve the underlying issues.

  12. nax says:

    Mary

    You are right, but ffs I would not look forward to sharing happy hour in your company…

  13. Mark Bradley says:

    “I do not accept that somebody born in HK pre 1997 is any more deserving of “sympathy” or entitlement than somebody legitimately living here (albeit under restrictions) pre 1997. Your wife and her parents were in an infinitely better, freer, position than my wife”

    Someone who is born a British Dependent Territories Citizen in Hong Kong in the 1980s is a British National and should be given a BNO. Full Stop. It’s a matter of the UK taking care of their British nationals not who deserves “sympathy” or entitlements. The UK is not responsible for foreigners, which includes myself as I am not a UK citizen.

    Having said that, I fully agree with you that domestic helpers are getting screwed over in HK and are treated like shit. As you noted, they can never gain right of abode in HK unless they marry someone and gain a dependent visa or obtain a work visa that isn’t related to being a domestic helper. Domestic helpers should be given the same chance as everyone else to obtain right of abode.

    Also @where’s my jet plane my interpretation of what you posted suggests that my wife is not eligible because you need to “have BN(O) status – you don’t need valid BN(O) passport to show this and you don’t need to request a new passport if it’s expired or has been lost” and according to:

    https://www.gov.uk/types-of-british-nationality/british-national-overseas

    “If you’re not already a British national (overseas), you cannot apply to become one.”

    I’ll email the UK consulate but my interpretation is that because my wife’s parents never registered as a BNO, she won’t quality for the BNO visa since it’s only offered to HKers with a valid BNO registration before 1997. BNO is not given automatically, though it should be.

  14. Mark Bradley says:

    “Someone who is born a British Dependent Territories Citizen in Hong Kong in the 1980s is a British National and should be given a BNO. Full Stop.”

    Without having to have to register for BNO. Requiring registration preys on ignorant people like my wife’s parents who did not register. It should be given to anyone who was born in HK as they are already a British Dependent Territories Citizen and therefore have British Nationality. UK has a responsibility to all peoples were part of the British Empire who did not actively renounce.

  15. Hamantha says:

    @Mark Bradley

    I’m in the exact same boat with respect to the “British Dependent Territories Citizen” vs. BNO question.

    If you hear back from the British consulate on the matter, please let us know!

    I’ve asked them for clarification about this multiple times in the past month, but so far have not received any response.

  16. where's my jet plane says:

    @ Mark Bradley
    On refelection I think you would be better off contacting the Foreign Office/Home Office directly rather than the consulate otherwise you are adding a layer of ill-informed bureaucracy in the chain.

  17. Din Gao says:

    For clarity, this is what the HMG has stated:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hong-kong-bno-visa-policy-statement/hong-kong-british-national-overseas-visa-policy-statement-plain-text-version

    Anyone who was a British Dependent Territories citizen through a connection with Hong Kong was able to apply to register as a BN(O) and apply for a BN(O) passport. People could apply for BN(O) status for a period of ten years prior to the handover to China on 1st July 1997. It is not possible to apply for BN(O) status now.

    The UK Government will ……giving those who registered as a BN(O) citizen the opportunity to apply for a visa which will enable them to come to the UK with a view to settling here permanently and then applying to become British citizens if they so wish.

    We are planning to open the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa for applications from January 2021. BN(O) citizens do not need to hold a BN(O) passport in order to apply for the visa – so there is no need for them to apply for, or renew, a BN(O) passport specifically for this purpose. All BN(O) citizens will need a visa to be able to settle in the UK.

    We understand there will be cases where the children of BN(O) citizens will not normally be eligible because they were born after 1997 (so are not BN(O) citizens) and are over 18 so they would not normally be considered as a dependant in the UK’s immigration system. Therefore, in compelling and compassionate circumstances, we will use discretion to grant a visa to the children of BN(O) citizens who fall into this category and who are still dependent on the BN(O).

    If the above doesn’t apply then the existing youth mobility scheme is open to people in Hong Kong aged between 18-30, with 1000 places currently available each year. Individuals from Hong Kong will also be able to apply to come to the UK under the terms of the UK’s new Points Based System, which will enable individuals to come to the UK in a wider range of professions and at a lower general salary threshold than in the past.

  18. Din Gao says:

    And by the way, is a revision now required?

    “Watching the sun set, little by little, on Asia’s greatest city – with a dash of Hemlock”

  19. Free the Meerkats! says:

    @Mary Melville

    Agreed – the plan to excavate beneath Kowloon Park for more parking and retail is a financial and environmental scandal.

  20. Big Al says:

    … but it will make some already rich property developers even richer. So it will happen.

  21. Just Following Orders says:

    @ Mark Bradley – Re: “Except you two seem to forget that BNO are supposed to be british nationals not foreign nationals with no connection to the commonwealth. They should have been given automatic right of abode, not being treated as second class citizens.’
    No, I haven’t forgotten that BN(O) passport holders are supposed to be British nationals. I’m just saying that for some of us Brits with a HK partner/spouse holding a BN(O), the situation has changed radically.
    That aside, I agree with your sentiments 100%. The UK has behaved disgracefully and shamefully with the people of HK and there should no requirement for someone to have registered as a BN(O) prior to 1997. If, prior to 1997, HK residents were not BN(O) then what the fuck were they? That particular clause needs to be dropped from the new BN(O) deal and one would hope that it is contested in a UK court.

  22. dimuendo says:

    Mark Bradley
    Just Following Orders

    Do not shout at me, but it is not the designation of British “national” that gives rights of residence etc in the UK but British “citizenship”. If you have a British passport make sure it shows you are a British citizen, not a British National.

    As for HKers automatically getting rights as British national, I first came to HK in 1986 and remember being introduced to an acquaintance’s HK chinese girlfriend. I made some casual reamrk as to HK being “ruled” by the British . Given her reaction I hastilly backtracked and we settled on “administered”. Although born and bred in HK she (understandably) did not regard herself as British nor did she want to be.

    As for shortcomings in treatment it is a combination of “indigenous people” being given the same (lack of) rights as all indigenous people of other former colonies, notwithstanding the others got autonomy and 1997 being recognised as the “hand over”plus the inimitable Percy Cradddock having a very major part to play in all things to do with HK (as aided and abetted by dead sheep Geoffrey Howe).

  23. dimuendo says:

    casual remark as to HK being “ruled”…
    Apologies

  24. Mark Bradley says:

    “Do not shout at me, but it is not the designation of British “national” that gives rights of residence etc in the UK but British “citizenship”. If you have a British passport make sure it shows you are a British citizen, not a British National.”

    Right I am aware of this and no disagreement here. What grinds my gears was that my wife was born a British National (again not citizen so no right of abode in UK) as she was born a British Dependent Territories citizen which while doesn’t give her right of abode in the UK, does confirm British nationality. What irks me is this British nationality was “lost” not because she took any action to renounce it, but because her parents did not register for BNO. The BNO should have automatically been granted to all British Dependent Territories citizens in Hong Kong instead of requiring registration, or barring that not limiting the registration to 1997. My wife had to rely on her parents and sadly they were not reliable.

    Fortunately my wife ended up being more successful than either of her parents or siblings as she was the only member of her family who completed both her undergrad and post graduate studies. As you might expect with working class parents who escaped from a Chinese village during the 1970s, her dad discouraged my wife to aim for higher education and wanted her to have a job to bring more money to the family. They instead focused all of their attention on my brother in law because he was a male despite him doing very poorly in school. But he has a nice job at the MTR so he’s all set too.

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