The number of applicants for a UK "golden visa" from Hong Kong citizens has surged amid protests over the extradition bill that have plunged the territory into turmoil.
According to Immigration lawyers and property investment firms interviewed by South China Morning Post, prolonged unrest in Hong Kong is encouraging the SAR's high net worth citizens to move capital out of the region and into more secure territories like the United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada and Australia.
Hong Kong made up the second-highest proportion of applicants for a Tier 1 investor visa in the second quarter of this year - a tenth of all applications.
Something is driving Hongkongers to obtain their golden visas now"
The figure has almost doubled since the first three months of the year, going from 7 to 13 applicants, and is the highest level in five years.
The Brexit-battered pound, which makes the "passport" fee of £2m less expensive when converted from some other currencies, was also driving a surge in applications.
Mainland Chinese applicants made up the highest proportion, at 45%.
"Hong Kong Chinese are snapping up golden visas at an unheard-of pace," said Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of the Chinese property group Juawei. "Something is driving Hongkongers to obtain their golden visas now."
The growth coincided with the pro-democracy protests that have rocked the semi-autonomous territory, which started on 31 March.
Tensions flared as the former British colony was rocked by a 13th straight weekend of pro-democracy protests, beginning with the formation of a peaceful human chain across the city and ending two days later with police firing a weapon and using water cannons. Clashes resulted in 86 arrests and left 21 officers injured. There are calls for another mass protest march this weekend.
The pro-democracy protests have continued despite Hong Kong leader withdrawing the controversial extradition bill. "The Carrie Lam concession, so-called concession has come too little, too late. The damage is done," said pro-democracy lawmaker and member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council Claudia Mo, adding, "The scars and wounds are still bleeding in Hong Kong."
"Hong Kong people, we will never stop until Hong Kong is the place with democracy and freedom," said activist leader Joshua Wong.
Chmiel said that the surge of interest from Hong Kong means the UK will beat Portugal to first place for golden visa uptake in the European Union by the end of the year, bringing in around £1bn for the UK economy. Australia has also been another option for the wealthy in Hong Kong trying to escape the political upheaval.
To qualify, foreign nationals had to put down a minimum of £2m in UK bonds, share capital or companies which allow investors to apply for permanent residency within five years. For £5m, foreigners could apply for permanent residency after three years. UHNWIs moving £10m to the country can get permanent residency after two years.