China ‘sends sleeper spies to UK on Hong Kong visas’: Agents are trying to exploit new scheme designed to help residents of former British colony, report claims

  • Government sources say Chinese sleeper agents are among new visa applicants
  • There have been more than 34,000 applicants to the new scheme since January
  • Successful applicants can come for up to 5 years and can then settle indefinitely

Chinese spies are trying to exploit a new visa scheme designed to help Hong Kong residents come to Britain, it emerged last night.

There have been 34,000 applicants for the British National (Overseas), or BNO, visa since it was introduced in January, and Government sources said Chinese sleeper agents were among them.

‘There are stringent background checks for the applications – and they’re in place for a reason,’ an unnamed source told the Times.

‘The vetting process for the BNO visa scheme is much more thorough than any other.’

Beijing is cracking down on Hong Kong democracy campaigners. Lord Patten, the former governor of Hong Kong, told the paper: ‘We are dealing with a totalitarian state which uses informers.

Sources say Chinese spies are trying to exploit a new visa scheme designed to help Hong Kong residents come to Britain to which there’ve been 34,000 applicants since January (stock pic)

‘If anybody fears the Chinese will seek to place informers and people who will steal security secrets in open societies, they are entirely justified. We should get real about this.’

The Home Office says more than a million could emigrate from Hong Kong under the scheme, but the most likely number would be up to 322,400.

Successful applicants can come for up to five years, after which they may settle indefinitely.

In May the Home Office published figures showing more than 34,000 Hongkongers had applied for visas to come here in just the first two months of a new scheme.

Some may be securing a visa just in case Beijing intensifies its attacks on Hong Kong’s special status, including democratic rights supposedly guaranteed in law when the UK handed the territory back to China in 1997.

The territory has a population of more than seven million.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the visa scheme showed Britain was ‘keeping its word’

Official papers predict the scheme would bring an overall economic benefit to Britain of between £2.4billion and £2.9billion over five years, mostly in tax revenue.

British Consul-General to Hong Kong, Andrew Heyn, has said new security laws imposed on the territory by Beijing ‘marked a clear erosion of the rights and freedoms for the people of this city’.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the visa scheme showed Britain was ‘keeping its word’, and added: ‘We will not look the other way on Hong Kong, and we will not duck our historic responsibilities to its people.’

Successful Hong Kong applicants will be able to come here for up to five years, and after that period will be able to settle in the UK indefinitely.

Fees for the new visa are lower than other types, at £250 for five years, but migrants will have to pay the NHS immigration health surcharge which costs £400 per person per year, or £300 a year for students.

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