Hong Kong bankers heading to UK to dodge Chinese law

Andy Jalil

With the Chinese government having imposed a controversial national security law in Hong Kong to crackdown on protests and widespread unrest for over a year there, finance workers in the region are now flocking to London. On 30th June, China passed its “anti-protest” law, which targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments of up to life in prison.

Estate agents and recruiters in the British capital have seen a sharp rise in inquiries from Hong Kong-based finance workers since the security law was announced. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on July 1 – the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British rule back to China – that Britain will offer citizenship to nearly three million Hong Kong residents who hold British National Overseas (BNO) status.

Johnson said: “We made clear that if China continued down this path, we would introduce a new route for those with (BNO) status to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship. That is precisely what we will do now.” Hong Kong finance workers have been eyeing London’s residential market since political protest began in the region in March 2019, according to a report by estate agent Aston Chase.

Co-founder and director of Aston Chase, Mark Polack said: “Due to London’s reputation as an economic hub, a significant number of Hong Kong-based enquiries and transactions are from those who work in finance.” He added: “With Hong Kong being a financial hub in Asia and London its European counterpart, there has been a long-standing synergy between the two areas.”

Meanwhile, Beauchamp Estates has seen a rise in demand from Hong Kong finance investors who are interested in buying property in areas on the fringes of the financial district of London. “Many of these purchasers are investors who work in banking, finance and private family offices and the UK investments are part of a spread-portfolio of investments,” said Jeremy Gee, managing director of Beauchamp Estates.

The UK foreign office announced the new arrangements for British people living in Hong Kong, allowing those with overseas national’s status living there to come to the UK without the current six-month limit.

The move would mean they can live and work in the UK for five years, after which they can apply for settled status and, after a further 12 months, citizenship. Among Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents, 350,000 hold BNO passports. A further 2.5 million are eligible to apply for them.