Hong Kong residents renewed or applied for British National (Overseas) passports in record numbers last year as anti-government protests erupted in the city, according to the South China Morning Post.
The 154,218 BNO passports issued in 2019 is an eightfold jump from the year earlier, the newspaper reported, citing British government data. The authority also recorded 32,813 renewals by the end of June this year, the second-highest number since 2006, the Post said.
The identity document was a product of the end of the British colonial era, made to recognize Hong Kong residents of the time as overseas British nationals, though it only gave holders the right to visit the country for as long as six months. In July, the U.K. government upgraded the status of BNO passport holders to offer them a path to U.K. citizenship in response to the Chinese government’s introduction of the controversial national security law.
The political unrest last year and the introduction this year of the security legislation have prompted many Hong Kong residents to plan an exit from the former British colony in search of more stability and freedom. The U.K. has become an increasingly attractive destination with the easing of immigration policy towards BNO holders. Realtors in London are already seeing a surge in interest from Hong Kong, with inquiries up almost 80% this year for some agencies.
There are an estimated 350,000 BNO passport holders in Hong Kong, and about 2.5 million who are eligible for them. Shawna Kwan, Bloomberg