People leaving Hong Kong need lifeboats and safe harbors

A recent poll shows that 21% of Hong Kong people plan to leave Hong Kong permanently. With the implementation of the National Security Law and a number of pro-democracy figures going into exile, those who remain in Hong Kong face an increasingly challenging political environment and a new wave of emigration is likely to emerge in Hong Kong.

In response, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have relaxed their visa policies for Hong Kong people, and the U.S. Congress has introduced a bill to help Hong Kong people gain asylum.

Experts say the gap between Hong Kong and other Chinese cities is getting smaller and smaller, and there is only so much the West can do in response to the consequences of the NSA, but it can provide more support such as visas and residency status for those who intend to leave Hong Kong.

According to a poll released on March 19 by the Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion Research, formerly known as the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong, 65% of respondents are not confident in Hong Kong’s future political environment, 52% are not confident in the economic outlook, and 21% plan to leave Hong Kong permanently. According to another poll released on March 22 by Democratic Thinking, a think tank convened by Hong Kong Executive Council member Ronny Tong, 32.7% of the respondents said they plan to emigrate overseas. If these two polls accurately reflect reality, it means that the number of people who may leave Hong Kong will exceed 1 million.

Since the enactment of the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law on June 30 last year, a number of democrats have gone into exile. Former legislators in exile overseas, such as Law Kwun Chung, Leung Sung Hang and Johnnie Hui, are wanted by the Hong Kong police on suspicion of violating the National Security Law, and they have announced that they have severed ties with their families still in Hong Kong.

Those who have not left Hong Kong face an increasingly tough political environment. In March, 47 pan-democrats were formally charged with “conspiracy to subvert state power” under the National Security Law for their participation in last year’s legally invalid primary election for the Legislative Council. As of March 2, 83 men and 17 women between the ages of 16 and 79 have been arrested under the National Security Law, and 56 of them have been charged, a police statement said. Those arrested include media mogul Lai Chi-ying, who remains in custody, activist Chow Ting, and 19-year-old Chung Han-lam, the former convener of Student Action, who was arrested by plainclothes police last October and allegedly denied entry into the U.S. consulate to seek asylum.

Orville Schell, director of the New York-based Asia Society’s Center for U.S.-China Relations, told VOA that originally Hong Kong people were unsure whether Hong Kong would become more like China or whether it would maintain its independence. But the ambiguity in which they find themselves has become clearer over the past year.

The ambiguity is now over, and I think the National Security Law draws the line,” said Xia Wei. We’re now seeing the consequences of the National Security Law and the ongoing arrests and detentions, and it’s that intensification, and I think there’s a growing awareness that speaking out in any way in Hong Kong may not lead to a safe Life in Hong Kong.”

Michael C. Davis, a law professor who has taught at the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong for 30 years, said the NSA has caused fundamental damage to one country, two systems, and that the four crimes under the NSA – secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign forces – are vaguely defined and not formulated and implemented in a manner consistent with international They are not formulated and enforced in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. He pointed out that almost all of those arrested under the National Security Law were “convicted for their words,” including the placard holders. Hong Kong’s freedom of expression is being infringed upon, and opposition figures are at risk in Hong Kong when all they have done is speak out against the Hong Kong government or Beijing.

Who defines the “patriots” who govern Hong Kong?

At the March meeting of the Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC), it was proposed that Hong Kong’s electoral system be drastically revised to implement “patriots ruling Hong Kong.” On March 30, the NPC Standing Committee voted unanimously to change the electoral system to include a new “Candidate Qualifications Committee,” in which the police national security department will make judgments about whether a candidate is loyal or not. The police national security department will make a judgment on whether the candidate is loyal to the conditions.

Dai said the difference between Hong Kong and other Chinese cities is becoming smaller and smaller. By “patriot,” Beijing means someone who supports the government or is not a patriot.

In the United States, however, we know very few people who support the government in power,” Dai said. That is, half of the population is usually against the party in power. So Beijing’s definition of ‘patriot’ means that all your political rights are based on not being against the government, which is a major change in the history of Hong Kong. In all elections held in the past, usually only half of the Legislative Council seats were directly elected, and most of the votes were cast for the opposition. So the opposition used to be completely legal until nine months ago (when the national security law was implemented), so this is a huge change.”

Overseas “lifeboats” and “safe havens” for Hong Kong people

After the implementation of the National Security Law, the UK, Canada and Australia introduced special visa channels or relaxed policies for Hong Kong people. The UK’s “5+1” visa scheme allows Hong Kong people with BNO (British National Overseas Passport) status to bring their families to live, study or work in the UK for five years, after which they can apply for permanent residency and then apply for British citizenship after another year. The Home Office estimates that 2.9 million Hong Kong people will be eligible, plus 5.2 million spouses and children, and that at least 258,000 and up to 322,400 Hong Kong people will apply to immigrate to the UK on BNO visas in the next five years.

Canada’s “Lifeboat Program” for Hong Kong people has relaxed its immigration policy, with SAR passport or BNO passport holders, as well as Hong Kong people who have graduated from a recognized Canadian higher Education institution within the past five years, can apply for a three-year open work visa. Those with at least one year of work experience in Canada in the past five years, and Hong Kong residents who have graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution within the past three years may apply directly for permanent residence. Australia’s program provides an additional five-year residence visa for Hong Kong residents on student and temporary skilled visas and paves the way for applications for permanent residency.

In February, U.S. Senators Rubio and Menendez reintroduced the “Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act”. Under this bill, Hong Kong residents who have participated in peaceful demonstrations and have a well-founded fear of persecution by the authorities would be eligible to immigrate to the U.S. as refugees, and would not be subject to the same quota for asylum applications. The U.S. Congress has also reintroduced the Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act, which passed the House of Representatives in the last Congress without bipartisan opposition, to help Hong Kong people obtain asylum in the United States.

Former Hong Kong legislator Leung Chung Hang, who is currently in exile in the United States, is making an asylum application. He said, “We once upon a Time, last year ago, not to mention the U.S. government, even I would not have imagined that there would be such a large group of people in Hong Kong who would need to go into exile. I believe that as things get worse, more and more Hong Kong people will actually leave, and the United States is a place where they want to come and live. So all of our recent lobbying efforts are actually pushing for the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Bill, which is a lifeboat program for Hong Kong. If there is this bill, I believe it will be a great help for Hong Kong, especially for the protesters, for the people who support democracy and freedom in Hong Kong.”

Songheng Liang introduced the U.S. asylum application information in Hong Kong community is not yet very circulated, before Chung Hanlin to the U.S. Consulate to seek asylum unsuccessfully that is an example, reflecting that many Hong Kong people are not aware that this is not a consular matter. In addition, Hong Kong people need to apply for a visa to travel to the United States, but for the more urgent situation of the democrats, waiting for the visa period is also a risk. He believes the best way is for the U.S. to launch a lifeboat program that lists all information in a single plan and gives Hong Kong people in critical situations a chance to get to the U.S. quickly.

Hong Kong people traditionally migrate to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia is actually easier, so more people are there,” said Liang Songheng. It’s not impossible to come over to the United States, but it’s tougher. I’m recently working on a team to do initiatives, and there are some people who have BNO, why they come to the United States? Because they want to still go back to Hong Kong and do something. The priority of the United States over other countries is that it can give people who want to help Hong Kong do something a platform to do it. They really feel that the U.S. has a lot of influence in the world, and if we end up restoring Hong Kong, we can’t be without that piece.”

Xi Jinping‘s gift to the world”

Former Keyboard Front spokeswoman Kwong Chung-ching, known to netizens as “The Mouse Lady,” who called for sanctions against China at a hearing in Germany in January, has been declared in exile in Germany and will face charges of “collusion with foreign powers” under the National Security Law if she returns to Hong Kong.

The company’s main business is to provide a wide range of products and services to the public. After the promulgation of the National Security Law, she gave it some thought and decided to speak up for Hong Kong in a democratic country, which had lost its freedom, and testified at the hearing at the risk of being wanted under the Law.

I asked myself several times, what would you do if you didn’t do this,” said Kwong Sung-ching. The answer was that I would still continue to do the IFP to lobby, and I would still be breaking the National Security Law. So it was decided that to die a worthy death, to do a big thing. The January hearings actually said that to do it will have to maximize (maximize) the repercussions.”
Kwong Son Ching hopes that Germany will provide a special lifeboat program for Hong Kong people in exile and lower the restrictions on applying for asylum, as Britain and Canada have done. The best approach is to provide a residence program that allows Hong Kong people to work and study. On the one hand, the burden on the German government is smaller, while allowing Hong Kong people to contribute to society in Germany, it will be a win-win situation.

The German government’s approach to Hong Kong exiles is that there is no special treatment,” said Kwong Sung Ching. They think that the existing refugee policy is very good and that they can just seek asylum if they need it. But once you apply for refugee status, you can’t work or go to school. Many people actually don’t want to rely on that country’s welfare system, and Hong Kong people feel that I can contribute to society by coming here. Germany does not have to provide national identity to us, can just provide legal residents, this identity is very sufficient, because we actually just need a safe place.”

Mark Simon, who served as an aide to Lai Chi-ying for many years, is reportedly wanted by the Hong Kong government, and is currently settled in New Jersey, had a very positive prognosis for the contribution that Hong Kong talent might make to the country in a previous interview with the Voice of America. He believes that the Jews who came to the United States after World War II have made outstanding contributions to society and can be described as “Hitler’s gift to the United States. Nowadays, because of the changing political environment, Hong Kong people who come to the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are “Xi Jinping’s gift to the world”. The brain drain would be tragic for Hong Kong, but it would be a huge victory for the United States, which would probably get the best and brightest Hong Kong people.

Will Hong Kong’s potential “emigration wave” be halted?

Although the Hong Kong government denies the emergence of a “migration wave” and the ensuing outflow of capital, data from Canada’s financial regulator show that more than $34.7 billion was transferred from the Hong Kong banking system to Canada via electronic transfer in 2020, an increase of about 10% over the previous year and a record high since 2012, equivalent to 1.9% of the outflow of deposits from the Hong Kong banking system. The banking system 1.9% deposit outflow.

Hong Kong has a provident fund (pension protection scheme) system, and many people who want to leave will take their money out of the provident fund because they need some money to start a life overseas,” said law professor David Tai. So we don’t know yet if we will stop Hong Kong people from leaving by putting up these kinds of barriers.”

Asia Society’s Xia Wei said there is only so much the West can do in response to the consequences of the national security law, but it can provide more support for people who intend to leave Hong Kong.

Xia Wei said, “There’s not really a lot that Western countries can do, but one thing they can do, and I think the U.K. and the U.S. are already doing it, and I hope they can do more, is to provide visas and residency status to people who are no longer safe to stay in Hong Kong. I presume we’ll see more and more exodus, which represents a sad collapse of the last reservation on the edge of China, a place that used to be in China but isn’t quite China.”

Since January 31st of this year, Hong Kong no longer recognizes BNO passports as valid travel documents, and the Hong Kong government requires travelers to use Hong Kong passports. Subsequently, the Hong Kong government wrote to foreign consulates in Hong Kong informing them that it no longer recognizes and accepts BNO passports, a move seen as a “diplomatic affront” by other countries. In addition, the government may be working on further measures to deal with the possible exodus of Hong Kong people. The Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2020, recently introduced into the Legislative Council by the Security Bureau, proposes to empower the Secretary for Security to make rules to enable the Director of Immigration to obtain information on aircraft passengers and crew, and to give him the power to prohibit a means of transport from carrying a passenger, which is equivalent to the Director of Immigration having the power to prohibit a person from leaving the territory.

“Would anyone betray going to China? None.”

Xia Wei said Beijing has sharply tightened its grip on Hong Kong in recent months, and Xi Jinping appears to believe China has a system in place that works and will continue to push it in his already certain next term. His ultimate goal is to “complete the reunification of the motherland,” and the final piece of the puzzle is Taiwan.

He has a very imperial view of China, a geographical concept of the largest territory, and he intends to achieve that goal,” said Xia Wei. This gives some credibility to the one-party system of unilateral rule of the Chinese Communist Party because it touches on nationalism, patriotism, which is now the fundamental driving force, the glue, and I think it maintains some legitimacy for the Chinese Communist Party.”

Xia Wei believes that it is a great tragedy for China that so many people have been forced to leave the land of their birth, and it is an even greater shame for the CCP that its own people are seeking refuge overseas. If China is to truly become a modern nation and realize the “Chinese Dream,” it must find ways to accommodate different communities and voices.

Otherwise China will never feel comfortable in the world, and people will continue to leave, which is a shame, a historical problem that shames the Communist Party, to be precise,” he said. Is there anyone who would betray to China? No one. But so many Chinese have left China and, in fact, defected to freedom and come overseas. I think unless they can remedy that, the terrible contradiction will continue to exist at the heart of the whole proposition, and China will never retain its dignity, its full reverence and respect in this world.”