Breaking News & Top Stories


Hong Kong emigrants to UK blocked from accessing £2.2bn in pensions

Tens of 1000’s of Hongkongers who moved to the UK are being blocked from accessing as a lot as £2.2bn of pension belongings, as activists accuse town’s authorities of retaliating towards these deemed “unpatriotic” following a political crackdown.

The figures, launched by UK advocacy group Hong Kong Watch on the eve of the primary go to to the UK by a ministerial-level Hong Kong official since 2019, display how greater than 90,000 persons are being “punished” for emigrating underneath the British Nationwide (Abroad) programme, the group stated.

“It’s a blanket ban on BN(O) holders accessing the property that’s theirs,” stated Sam Goodman, director of coverage and advocacy at Hong Kong Watch. “It appears to be a punitive punishment for these taking the step to the UK.”

Within the wake of a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019, the UK provided thousands and thousands of town’s residents a path to citizenship underneath the BN(O) programme — a transfer that angered Chinese language authorities.

In response, the Hong Kong authorities in 2021 successfully prevented pension funds within the metropolis from instantly paying out to residents who left underneath the BN(O) scheme. The federal government stated people couldn’t use emigration underneath the UK provide as a legitimate cause for early withdrawal of the funds.

Numerous banks, insurers and monetary establishments provide pension funds underneath the Hong Kong authorities’s Obligatory Provident Fund retirement saving system, together with Manulife, Invesco, Constancy and HSBC. Usually, former Hong Kong residents might reclaim their pension funds in the event that they transfer overseas completely.

Hong Kong Watch calculated the £2.2bn determine based mostly on the common MPF account steadiness of HK$224,000 ($28,500), which it multiplied by the approximate variety of BN(O) visa holders who should not dependants or youngsters — about 96,000 individuals based mostly on the variety of functions between January 2021 and December 2022. In whole, there have been about 160,700 functions in that interval.

“If 30 per cent maintain an MPF with HSBC as a trustee, then HSBC is denying entry to . . . [assets] which belong to BN(O) visa holders who’ve completely left the territory to start out a brand new life within the UK,” Hong Kong Watch stated.

In response to a request for remark, the Hong Kong authorities reiterated that MPF scheme members “can not depend on BN(O) passport nor its related visa as proof in making use of for early withdrawal of MPF”.

HSBC stated it was obliged to adjust to Hong Kong authorities necessities. “Like all banks, we’ve got to obey the regulation, and the directions of the regulators, in each area by which we function,” the financial institution stated.

Constancy stated: “As one of many largest MPF suppliers in Hong Kong, we’ve got a complete withdrawal protocol from scheme trustee that aligns with [the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority’s] pointers.” Manulife and Invesco didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Attorneys stated Hong Kong BN(O) holders must be entitled to entry their funds after gaining full UK citizenship, which they will qualify for after 5 years, because the MPF authority ought to settle for a British passport as proof of everlasting relocation.

“BN(O) passport holders . . . may have to attend till they’ve obtained a British citizen passport or attained the retirement age of 65 to use to withdraw their MPF advantages,” stated Kenneth Leung, a Hong Kong lawyer specialising in pensions.

The MPF company declined to make clear how it might honour former residents’ withdrawal requests.

“If scheme members try and withdraw their MPF early on the grounds of everlasting departure from Hong Kong however the MPF trustees should not happy with the proof, the MPF will stay within the scheme members’ MPF accounts,” the authority stated.

Monetary providers secretary Christopher Hui’s proposed journey to the UK this month would be the first because the UK accused China of violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the 1984 treaty underneath which Hong Kong was transferred to Chinese language management.