Priti Patel prepares to extend offer of UK citizenship to Hong Kong residents born after handover
Priti Patel sets up China clash as she prepares to extend offer of UK citizenship to Hong Kong residents born after handover
The Home Secretary has asked officials to look at the options for expanding the proposed scheme
Priti Patel is risking a new row with China after promising to open the door to millions of young Hong Kong residents who could be given the right to settle in the UK despite not being British nationals.
The Home Secretary has asked officials to examine possible routes for Hongkongers who were born after 1997 – which includes many of the most vocal pro-democracy activists – to come to Britain on similar terms to the offer already extended to those who claimed British national (overseas) status before the territory was handed back to China.
Ms Patel is unlikely to offer under-23s the chance to get BNO status despite calls to do so from some MPs, i-news understands. Such a move would enrage the Chinese government, because it would suggest that people born and raised in Hong Kong are not fully Chinese.
A Government source said: “We’re working through all the existing migration routes to see how those can fit young Hongkongers before we start thinking about a new scheme.” One option might be allowing Hong Kong citizens who come to the UK as students to stay indefinitely after they finish their course, as has been done in Australia.
Another possibility is expanding the “youth mobility visa” which currently allows young people from certain countries to spend two years working in Britain.
Priti Patel told the home affairs select committee this week: “We are trying to work through this right now. It is complicated, but we are absolutely giving that commitment very clearly to that particular cohort.”
Up to 2.9m Hong Kong residents with BNO status will be eligible to settling in the UK and claim British citizenship under a scheme whose details will be published after the summer. They have been told that if they need to leave the territory more quickly, they can come to Britain as visitors for a six-month period while waiting for the new migration route to open.
Initially the Government faced claims that the young people who are most affected by Hong Kong’s new security crackdown were being overlooked because they cannot hold BNO status. Johnny Patterson of Hong Kong Watch told i-news: “The obvious gap in the Government’s policy is the 18-23s, so something targeted at that age group is welcome.”
Separately the president of the UK Supreme Court has warned that British judges may have to step down from the territory’s courts after national security legislation was imposed by Beijing, casting doubt on the independence of Hong Kong’s legal system. Lord Reed said: “The Supreme Court supports the judges of Hong Kong in their commitment to safeguard judicial independence and the rule of law.
“It will continue to assess the position in Hong Kong as it develops, in discussion with the UK Government. Whether judges of the Supreme Court can continue to serve as judges in Hong Kong will depend on whether such service remains compatible with judicial independence and the rule of law.”