As of Sunday, Hong Kong residents can apply for a visa that paves the way to British citizenship, according to Reuters. The new program coincides with China and Hong Kong no longer recognizing the British National Overseas (BNO) passport as a valid travel document. The U.K. and China have been in talks about China’s attempt to silence pro-democracy protesters who were arrested in large numbers in 2019 and 2020.
The U.K. government says the new visa program is part of a moral commitment to Hong Kong residents after Beijing imposed a tight security law that breaches the terms of agreement under which the semi-autonomous city was handed back to China in 1997. The visa program is expected to draw more than 300,000 people living in both Hong Kong and Britain. China said that those who obtain the visa would become “second-class citizens.”