(CMR) Thousands of people are fleeing Hong Kong for the UK since Beijing announced that it would no longer recognize the British National Overseas passport as a travel document or form of identification.
These people are expected to join over 7,000 others who have fled their hometown since Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the territory last year.
The Associated Press reported that people were leaving because they fear being punished for supporting the pro-democracy protests that swept the former British colony in 2019.
There are also reports that some people feel China's encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties had become unbearable and wanted to seek a better future for their families abroad.
Hundreds of thousands more are expected to leave as Britain officially opened applications for the British National Overseas visa on Sunday.
This is expected to accelerate the number of people fleeing as 5 million Hong Kongers are eligible to apply for visas to Britain, allowing them to live, work and study there and eventually apply to become British citizens, AP said.
The UK government forecasts the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependants to Britain.
Britain said it was fulfilling a historical and moral commitment to Hong Kong people after Beijing imposed the security law breaching the terms of agreements under which the colony was handed back to China in 1997.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the visa offer showed Britain was honoring its historical ties with Hong Kong, which was handed over to China with the understanding that it would retain its Western-style freedoms and much of its political autonomy not seen on mainland China, the report said.
China has criticized Britain's citizenship offer, citing that it infringed on China's sovereignty.
Hong Kong could apply for British National Overseas passports before the city was handed over to Chinese control in 1997.