A new visa scheme offering millions of citizen of Hong Konge a pathway to British citizenship will go live as the Britain opens its doors to those wanting to escape China’s crackdown on dissent on democracy.

From next weekm anyone with a British National (Overseas) or usually called as BN(O) passport and their dependents will be able to apply online for a visa allowing them to live and work in the United Kingdom. After five years they can then apply for citizenship. The immigration scheme is a response to Beijing’s decision last year to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong to stop huge and often violent protests. As expected, Beijing criticized this move harshly.

A large and rapid influx of people from Hong Kong is likely to be a financial boon to a Britain battered by Covid-19 and the end of the Brexit transition period.That would be a financial blow and a political embarrassment for China. Bank of America estimated in a recent report that departing Hong Kong residents could trigger capital outflows of HK$280bn (£26bn) this year alone, as people sell property and withdraw pension funds. Government figures put the “net benefit” for the UK at between £2.4bn and £2.9bn.

It is not clear how many Hong Kongers will take up the offer, especially as the coronavirus restricts global flights. But a BN(O) passport is available to a huge number of people — about 70 percent of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million population. Applications for BN(O) passports have skyrocketed more than 300 percent since the national security law was imposed last July, with 733,000 registered holders as of mid-January.

Professionals, it says, will need guidance on updating or transferring qualifications, and a publicity campaign to ensure that BNO status is widely recognized would help them access everything from bank accounts to rental contracts.