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The view from Hong Kong


IN response to the article ‘An open door to Hong Kong would be madness’ published on June 11, please let me express my opinion concerning the proposed plan of the British government to extend the rights of Hong Kong residents who hold British National (Overseas) ‘BN(O)’ passports. I come from Hong Kong and thus believe that I could reveal more clearly what is happening there at the moment.

In the article Alp Mehmet wrote: ‘It is impossible to overstate the risk inherent in what amounts to a huge gamble. It is worth recalling Tony Blair’s catastrophic miscalculation over the EU accession of the eight Eastern European states when a maximum of 13,000 per year were expected to come. In the event, more than one million workers from Eastern Europe arrived between 2004 and the end of 2009 – an average of around 200,000 a year.

First of all, I agree with the author that the settlement of Hongkongers in Britain is an issue which has to be taken seriously due to the amount of people with the BN(O) status. I understand that certain political figures in the UK are eager to assist Hongkongers so that they can escape from a tyrannical regime. However, the UK authorities have to be realistic about how many Hongkongers the British society will be able to absorb. 

After the British government had announced the possibility of loosening the immigration rules applicable to BN(O) holders, numerous Hongkongers were excited and wrote on Facebook or other social media that if the plan materialises, they will take advantage of it. What Hong Kong parents typically have in mind is the free-of-charge school education in Britain. In Hong Kong it is exceedingly expensive to enrol their children in an international school which implements the British curriculum. These parents are under the impression that by bringing their children to Britain, they can circumvent the exorbitant tuition fees which they would otherwise have to pay if they chose to stay in Hong Kong.

Owing to the generous offer from the British government, some Hongkongers are now worried that the Chinese government will step back and stop the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong. They think that if the national security law is abolished, they will lose the chance to relocate to the UK. Is this not ridiculous?

Furthermore, Hongkongers are competent speculators when it comes to the housing market. This is one of the reasons why real estate has become so costly in Hong Kong. Some of the BN(O) passport holders are already considering buying properties in Britain, which will eventually drive prices up. The existing British residents constitute the group that will suffer in the future, as they will encounter not just housing shortage but also unaffordable rents.

In conclusion there are social consequences of the proposed policy. If the government really pushes it through, it is imperative to devise strategies to mitigate the potential impacts of Hong Kong immigrants on the British society in the long run.

The author writes: ‘Unlike the portrayal by the media, Hong Kong is neither a harmonious nor peaceful society. Some people simply cannot accommodate different opinions and may be physically and verbally hostile or aggressive to unlike-minded others. Thus, for reasons of personal safety, I would like to seek your understanding and wish to remain anonymous. Is there a way to convey my message to the wider community in Britain or even decision-makers without revelation of my identity? What I wrote is my true observation.’

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