THE NUMBER OF Hong Kong applicants for UK BNO status fell sharply, from 17,100 a month in February-March, to just 10,200 a month in the April to June period, new figures show.
The 40% drop in applications indicates the attractiveness of the UK scheme appears to be tailing off, as more Hong Kong people take a wait-and-see attitude. The local economy is rising and jobless rates are low.
Total number of BNO applications for the full period add up to 29,900 families or single people. The five-month total, counting children, adds up to 64,900 individuals, of which 47,300 have been approved, the British government said.
However, they added that only 35,000 of the approved applications came from outside the UK, indicating that many immigrants already living in the country were switching to the new scheme.
This matches estimates by academics and analysts in Hong Kong, who say that the number of people leaving the southern Chinese coastal city so far is in the low to medium five figures.
How many people?
How many have actually left? The clearest indicators of numbers of people leaving come from pension fund “final” withdrawals and applications for police certificates of no criminal conviction.
The former reveals a drop in the number of withdrawals in the most recent year. The latter reveals that in the past seven months, 22,897 people have applied for police certificates indicating intention to emigrate.
Not who you think
Interestingly, property purchase data in the UK suggests that a significant proportion of Hong Kong people using the scheme are not political “refugees” but well-heeled business people and professionals taking the opportunity to get an extra passport and invest in London’s housing market.
While media interviews tend to focus solely on struggling politicised immigrants with an anti-China attitude, evidence suggests that an entirely different group is also taking advantage of the BNO offer. People from Hong Kong spent £959 million (US$1.3 billion) on 1,932 homes in London since July 2020, according to UK real estate company Benham and Reeves.
The number of applicants to the UK is very likely to fall further, as Hong Kong settles into its transition towards being part of the new Chinese technocracy, and emigration offers from Canada and elsewhere bite into the UK’s market.
Image at the top shows Hong Kong beach scene; picture by Jimmy Chan/ Pexels