Britons to lose special HK status

Hong Kong's government has outlined plans to curb the visiting and residency rights of British people who have hitherto enjoyed a privileged status in the colony.

If legislation is passed on schedule, Britons will lose all privileges from 1 April, meaning that they will require visas to work, study or do business in Hong Kong.

More surprisingly, long-standing residents, who have lived in the colony for more than seven years, will lose their "right to land" and will not enjoy the special deportation arrangements which prevail at present. It is highly unusual, under the system of common law, to make restrospective changes.

"I look at it as a matter of changing somebody's rights," said Margaret Ng, a legislator who believes the government is pushing the bill through with unseemly haste.

However, Hong Kong's government is under considerable pressure to remove any hint of a suggestion that Britons will enjoy any form of privilege once the colony returns to Chinese sovereignty in July.

Chinese language newspapers yesterday published editorials welcoming the move and stating that it was in line with preparations for the end of British rule.

However, some legislators believe that the measures do not go far enough. Chan Yuen-ha, a pro-Peking legislator, is introducing a private members bill to remove an alleged loophole under which the director of immigration has discretion in granting work permits.

After April, Britons will be allowed a six-month visa-free stay in Hong Kong, compared with the current 12-month period, and they will only be allowed to visit as tourists.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to get an accurate idea of how many British people remain in the colony. At the beginning of the month, the government published statistics which suggested that the number of British residents had been cut by a quarter to 25,500, in the 10 months from February to December last year.

However, anecdotal evidence and reports from employers of manual labour suggest that Britons are still flooding in to take advantage of special rules which mean they do not need to obtain work permits. On the other hand, a lot of long-standing residents, particularly civil servants, are finding their jobs being subject to localisation, forcing them to move out.

There have been no protests from the British community about the changes to the law. Christopher Hammerbeck, the executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce, said he thought the proposals were "broadly fair". He stated that the aim was "to get British citizens on the same basis as other foreign nationals".

China has promised that it will not make special arrangements for its citizens to live in Hong Kong. Indeed, fears of an influx from the mainland have prompted the Chinese authorities to make it clear that although Hong Kong is returning to the motherland, its citizens will not be free to travel to the former British colony.

Instead of getting entry permits from Hong Kong, they will need permission from the Chinese government.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL)

£30 - 40k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / ...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Operations Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is the single governing and regul...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufa...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935