The Hong Kong migrants fleeing to start new lives in the UK
Residents of the former British colony believe China is undermining Hong Kong's rights and freedoms
The UK will be introducing a new visa in late January that will give 5.4 million Hong Kong residents - an astonishing 70% of the territory's population - the right to come and live in the UK and eventually become citizens.
It is making this "generous" offer to residents of its former colony because it believes China is undermining Hong Kong's rights and freedoms.
Not everyone will come. Some of those entitled to leave have expressed their determination to stay and continue the fight for democracy.
The UK estimates that around 300,000 people will take up the visa offer over the next five years.
But some are so eager to leave that they are already in the UK, including Andy Li and his wife Teri Wong.
Andy Li (L) and Teri Wong (R) have already moved to the UK to provide better opportunities for their children
The couple moved to York with their daughter Gudelia and son Paul in October, shortly after the UK announced it would adopt the new visa system.
They did the move mainly for their children.
"We feel that the things we value about Hong Kong - our core values - are fading over time," said Mr. Li.
"That's why we decided to give our children a better opportunity, not just for their education, but also for their future."
For Mr. Li, Britain offers the kind of society - rule of law, free speech, democratic elections - that he longed for in Hong Kong.
Ms. Wong said she wanted her children to be able to say what they want in school, not like in Hong Kong where they have to be careful. "This is not the life they are supposed to have," she said.
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The UK offers citizenship to Hong Kong residents
The UK has allowed Hong Kong residents like Mr Li and his family to move to the UK before the new visa goes into effect.
However, starting January 31, they can start applying for citizenship, which will last six years.
In the meantime, although they will be able to receive medical care and raise their children, they will have to finance themselves.
14 year old Gudelia and 11 year old Paul have already found a new school.
Mr. Li continues to work remotely for a Chinese electronics company based in Shenzhen, the Chinese city just across the border with Hong Kong.
The family is excited about their new life, but others have arrived with less feeling of starting something good than of fleeing something bad.
A person who did not want to be identified recently came to the UK after participating in Hong Kong protests for democracy in 2019.
"I fear for the safety of friends and family who have decided to stay behind," the 23-year-old told the BBC.
"And I fear that because of my active participation in the protests, I will also become a target for the Hong Kong authorities."
But this person also has hope for a better life: "To be given the chance to live here is a dream come true."
Since Britain returned its former colony 23 years ago, relatively few residents of the territory - fewer than 16,000 - have become British citizens.
This will certainly change, also because the new visa system apparently presents few hurdles for the millions who are entitled to apply.
"I've had clients who applied in Canada, Australia and Taiwan and who have suspended their applications and are now heading to the UK," said Andrew Lo, a Hong Kong immigration consultant.
Another advisor on the Territory, Colin Bloomfield, said the visa requirements appeared generous, although the UK could add other requirements that would make it difficult to move.
The system is open to Hong Kong residents who applied for British National (Overseas) (BNO) status prior to surrender in 1997. A total of 2.9 million people have registered and can apply for the new visa.
Your relatives - another two and a half million people - can also travel with you.
Teri Wong is the only person in her family who has registered for BNO status. However, she was allowed to take her Chinese-born husband and two children to the UK.
"Why should I go?"
Although the UK government admits that up to a million people could apply for visas in the next five years, it believes only a few hundred thousand will actually do so.
It believes that most of the people will choose to stay in Hong Kong.
Some residents do not want to leave older parents behind or learn a new language. UK weather is sure to deter others.
Many do not want to leave the territory to its fate.
"There are a certain number of people who don't want to go, especially the boys. They would rather die in Hong Kong," Lo said.
"I have a lot of clients who argue with their kids because the kids don't want to emigrate. They say, 'Why should I go? I should do my best to change this place'."
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There is also difficulty in finding work in the UK as the country tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.
And if enough come, newcomers could face resentment from Brits who oppose too much immigration.
"In cold daylight, many will choose to stay in Hong Kong," said Bloomfield, whose company is called British Connections.
Regardless of how many apply, the UK government said it had no choice but to offer the people of Hong Kong an escape route.
"This is not a question of numbers," said an interior ministry spokesman.
"The government is committed to giving the citizens of British National (Overseas) Hong Kong a choice of coming to the UK to fulfill our historic commitment to them."
The UK believes that when China imposed its national security law on Hong Kong earlier this year, it violated the provisions of the surrender agreement signed by the two countries.
The space for expression, which the Chinese government dislikes, has certainly narrowed since the law went into effect in July.
In the end, the number of Hong Kong residents emigrating to the UK might depend on how much more Beijing decides to squeeze.
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