Chinese 'Spies' Trickling Into Britain Through Special Visa Scheme For Hongkongers, Report Claims
03:43 GMT 09.08.2021 (Updated: 05:14 GMT 09.08.2021)
The UK has been providing British National Overseas (BNO) passports to Hong Kong citizens who were born before the island came under Chinese jurisdiction in 1997. BNO passport holders and their family members are allowed to stay in the UK for up to five years, and after six years of residence have the opportunity to apply for British citizenship.
Chinese "spies" have found a way to sneak into the UK by applying for visas as Hong Kong refugees, a report by The Times claimed on Sunday, citing government sources.
According to the newspaper, the so-called "sleeper agents" were said to apply for a BNO visa by pretending to be asylum seekers who want to escape from the "totalitarian state”".
"There are stringent background checks in place for the visa applications — and they're in place for a reason", government sources said. "The vetting process for the BNO visa scheme is much more thorough than any other".
According to the last British governor of Hong Kong, Lord Christopher Patten Barnes, the overall checks are a justified response to the Hong Kong National Security Law. Since its introduction, Hong Kong residents have filed more than 30,000 applications.
"We are dealing with a totalitarian state which uses informers", he noted. "If anybody has fears that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will seek to place informers and people who will steal security secrets in open societies, then they are entirely justified. We should get real about this".
The British Home Office told the newspaper that it takes all "precautions" in the BNO visa issuing process as to avoid "malicious" applicants and secure visas for those who need them.
© Sputnik / Tommy YangPolice officers prepare for protests in Hong Kong
Police officers prepare for protests in Hong Kong
© Sputnik / Tommy Yang
The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed in June 2020 by Chinese authorities to introduce certain kinds of crime - separatist and terrorist activities, attempts to undermine state power, and colluding with foreign states or forces located abroad in order to endanger national security.
The law sparked criticism from a number of countries and prompted some, including the US, UK, Australia, and Canada to ease some immigration procedures for Hong Kong residents.
Under the provisions of the Hong Kong Basic Law that came into force with the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997, the legislation on national security was supposed to be imposed by the Hong Kong authorities themselves, but they failed to do so as the drafting of this law was accompanied by mass protests.