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Democracies Must Not Fail Hong Kong Migrants

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These communities deliver as many benefits to their host countries as they gain from being there.
Hong Kong was built upon migration. Its entrepreneurial people may be on the brink of another exodus.
The U. K. shamefully left residents of its former colony in a second-class category of non-citizenship when it handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997. It may finally be about to right some of the wrongs of the past. Holders of British National (Overseas) status — who get U. K.-style passports and some consular help, but have no special rights to live in Britain — may have their visas broadened to give them residency and a path to citizenship, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Thursday.
Such a move would only happen if China follows through on its measures to impose national-security laws on Hong Kong, violating the spirit of the 1984 Joint Declaration that paved the way to the handover. Should the U. K. make good on this offer, though, it would be hugely significant: The 315,000 holders of so-called BN(O) passports number nearly three times the U. K.’s existing 110,000-strong Hong Kong-born population. In total, about 2.9 million Hong Kongers — more than a third of the city — still have BN(O) status and should be able to apply for the passport if the need arose.
Even then, it wouldn’t be enough. About 1.4 million Hong Kongers were born since the 1997 handover. The democracy activists most at risk of reprisals in any crackdown are over-represented among that generation, who’d by virtue of their age be ineligible for BN(O) status. That’s where Taiwan, the U. S., Canada and Australia — the other democracies that have spoken up in support of the rights of Hong Kongers this week — need to back up their words with actions.

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