BN(O) Visa and the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement aka the 2019–2020 Hong Kong Protests

Hong Kong was handed from the UK to China under the Sino-British Joint Declaration agreement, which said the communist country would respect the territory's capitalist system and the rule of law for 50 years, an arrangement known as "one country, two systems".

 

Over the years after the handover, Hong Kong people are highly concerned with Beijing’s overstepping its authority and the tightening control over the rule of Hong Kong. 

 

In 2018, a Hong Kong man allegedly murdered his girlfriend in Taiwan. He then fled and returned to Hong Kong.  Taiwan sought help from Hong Kong to extradite the man, but Hong Kong officials claimed that they could not comply due to a lack of extradition agreement with Taiwan.  

 

The Hong Kong government proposed the extradition bill in February 2019 to establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives not only for Taiwan but also for Mainland China and Macau, which are currently excluded in the existing laws.  People wanted for crimes in those territories could potentially be sent there to face trial.  It was claimed to plug the loopholes so that the city would not be a safe haven for criminals. 

 

However, the bill caused widespread criticism domestically and abroad, fearing the erosion of Hong Kong’s judicial independence. There is a fear that people would be subject to arbitrary detention, unfair trial, and torture under China’s judicial system.  

 

After months of protests, the bill was halted and later fully withdrawn, but it has failed to stop the unrest in Hong Kong. 

 

On 30th June 2020, China has imposed a controversial security law for Hong Kong. China stepped in to ensure Hong Kong has a legal framework to deal with any severe challenges to its authority.  It allows China government to reshape the life and society of Hong Kong.

 

The law criminalises any act of

secession – breaking away from the country

subversion – undermining the power of authority of the central government

terrorism – using violence or intimidation against people

collusion with foreign or external forces

 

Under the law, anyone who criticizes the Hong Kong or Chinese government anywhere in the world can potentially be charged with violating the national security law.  It undermines the rule of law in Hong Kong and human rights guarantees in the Basic Law of Hong Kong.  The rights include freedom of expression, information, association, peaceful assembly, right to vote, and fair trial.

 

In responding to the national security law imposed for Hong Kong, the UK government launched a new route for BNO passport holders to enter the UK from 31st  January 2021.   The BN(O) visa route will enable BN(O) holders and their dependant family members to live, work and study in the UK. The BN(O) passport holders and their family members on the BN(O) visa route will be eligible to apply for permanent settlement after five years in the UK, followed by British citizenship after a further 12 months. 

 

The visa reflects the UK’s historical and moral commitment to Hong Kong people who have had their rights and freedoms restricted. 

 

Nearly 65,000 BN(O) passport holders and their family members applied for BN(O) visa in the first five months since the new pathway was launched.  Those who come to the UK will make here – a place where freedom and autonomy are upheld- their home.