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International 03 Feb, 2021 Follow News


By Michael Jarvis, UK Correspondent


Against a backdrop of protests over a move by China to introduce a new national security law, the British government is now offering Hong Kong citizens a fast-tracked UK citizenship.

Persons in Hong Kong who hold a British National Overseas passport can now apply (since the end of January) for a UK visa for themselves and their dependents with the possibility of a full UK citizenship after five years.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control in 1997 after over 150 years of British rule dating back to 1841.

This is a development that will no doubt be watched closely in the Cayman Islands where several Hong Kong citizens and companies have a presence and investments.

The UK visa offer is available to around 5.5 million Hong Kong residents, estimated to be about 70% of the population.

It was already expected that an initial 300,000 could take up the offer with the likelihood of many more considering the move.

The offer has been opposed by the Chinese government which has said it will not recognise the BNO passport as a travel document.

The current wave of protests started in 2019 against the plans by the Chinese government to introduce the security law which involves extraditing protesters from Hong Kong to mainland China.

The original draft law was eventually withdrawn last year but China is understood to be planning a new version of it.

Since the UK relinquished control of China in 1997 there have been waves of demonstrations demanding democratic reform aimed at keeping the territory more in line with the system under which Hong Kong functioned for over 150 years of British colonial rule.

Hong Kong is ranked as a high-income country with GDP per capita in the region of $US37,000 and has a highly regarded tertiary education system.

One perspective is that high-net-worth persons could seek to move their business interests and families out of the territory leading to an estimated US$36 billion outflow to the UK and possibly overseas territories.

With a representative office in Hong Kong - and Hong Kong business interests in Cayman - developments in and affecting that former British territory will no doubt be watched closely by the Cayman Islands government and business community.

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