Why We Must Accommodate the Hong Kong Population | Nathan Eckersley
I write this as a counter to Jacob Barden’s article opposing the new immigration path introduced by the Home Secretary Priti Patel for the people of Hong Kong who are fleeing the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The Home Office is reportedly granting five passports a minute to Hong Kong residents which is an admittedly high number – but a number which will set the tone for Global Britain post-Brexit.
This is not free and unlimited immigration like we had with the European Union, but rather a bespoke path for Hongkongers who already have, or are eligible for, British National (Overseas), or BN(O), status and their immediate families. The plan allows BN(O) Hongkongers to apply for a BN(O) visa which means, after five years, they can ‘apply for settlement’ and then seek British citizenship, only if they have met all the requirements after twelve months of settlement. The new immigration path also denies Hongkongers moving to the UK the ability to claim welfare benefits and ensures Hongkongers either have a good command of English or demonstrate a commitment to learn English if they pursue settled status. Furthermore, the new points-based immigration system being introduced on the 1st January will also ensure that highly-skilled Hongkongers will be prioritised and therefore benefit the economy.
I also challenge the notion that this policy is simply to placate Empire nostalgists because it clearly doesn’t. If anything, it is the conservative thing to do by accepting them. Specifically, if you subscribe to the One Nation branch of conservatism, one could argue that it is a part of the noblesse oblige to help them. We have an obligation as a signatory to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, to help those less fortunate than ourselves and provide safety for them and, in this case, it is the Hongkongers having their basic, natural rights stripped away from them every day by the CCP. If you subscribe to the Thatcherite or Free Market branch of conservatism, one could argue that the UK is granting the liberty to the unfree and bringing hardworking individuals to our country who will contribute to the economy and establish, or move businesses here which will create much-needed jobs, especially in such an uncertain economic environment.
The Home Secretary is simply upholding the UK’s commitment to what remains of the Joint Declaration which established ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong. Margaret Thatcher was one of the UK’s greatest Prime Ministers and, I believe, while she changed Britain and the world for the better, on China, she got it completely wrong. Her decision to sign the UK up to the Joint Declaration, naively, failed to consider the fact that future leaders of China would not be so open to preserving ‘One Country, Two Systems’ in Hong Kong. Thatcher changed the status of BN(O) Hongkongers at a time when the Hong Kong economy was booming which meant they no longer had the right to live and work in the UK, despite the fact Britain owned Hong Kong. The Government’s policy is simply restoring the rights Hongkongers had 40 years ago.
The CCP has rid Hong Kong of any official opposition through detaining any pro-democracy campaigners from activists, such as Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, to billionaire Apple Daily proprietor Jimmy Lai. The Legislative Council has been transformed from an open chamber for debate and challenge to simply rubber stamping CCP legislation by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The supposedly free and fair elections held for the Council, which have been conveniently postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been wrought by corruption with pro-democracy candidates being disqualified and current pro-democracy legislators being pressured into resigning their seats. The freedom fighters of Hong Kong face a grim future if the world turns its back on them and is why we have a moral duty to help them.
It cannot go unnoticed that such huge numbers of people would be moving here when we have such difficulties domestically, but who would Britain be if she didn’t provide help for those who need her? We will not have millions of Hongkongers arriving at UK airports on day one. It is a plan which sees a steady flow of Hongkongers arriving over a number of years and, as written above, they would not be seeking citizenship for many years after arriving. The arrival of the Hongkongers will also bring a huge boost to the economy, with estimates suggesting that they would contribute between £2.4 billion and £2.9 billion over five years in taxation alone. In terms of the housing market, which is currently under pressure with house prices currently at an all time high, this mass injection will give the economy a huge boost when they arrive and start on the property ladder. The Chancellor pledged in his Budget in March that a million new homes will be built by the end of the Parliament as well as housing regulations being reformed to make house building easier and quicker. The market will accommodate the Hongkongers coming to Britain and it will not come at the expense of UK citizens.
It is absolutely right that we challenge the actions of Government but the ability to do that has been removed in Hong Kong when simply questioning can result in a life sentence, which is why it is imperative that we not only give Hongkongers sanctuary here but welcome them. There are an estimated 2.9 million Hongkongers eligible for BN(O) status who are eligible to accept this generous offer. We owe it to future generations to look out for those who do not enjoy the same liberties as we do and to say that we looked out for others at a time when nations were acting in self-interest.
Hong Kong is just the start of the fight back against China and the world must stand united against this grotesque regime. Confronting China militarily will fail because the UK simply does not have the capability to fight such a huge army, but using our soft power to challenge them is the currently one of the only ways to institute serious and meaningful change. It should not be forgotten that there are other things the UK is doing to challenge China’s growing influence. The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, which applies sanctions on individuals, will be a significant deterrent to CCP officials who have financial interests in the UK and will reaffirm the UK opposition to the suppression of democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, as well as for the exploited Uyghur population. The Government also has the National Security and Investment Bill going through the House of Commons which will address the lack of transparency with foreign investments and create oversight to ensure businesses transactions protect national security.
This one, bespoke immigration pathway simply scratches the surface of what the UK and the rest of the world can do to champion the rights of the oppressed and persecuted.