The war of words over the launch of a controversial visa scheme for Hongkongers to emigrate to Britain in the wake of Beijing’s national security law had always been expected. The real concern was whether it would prompt an exodus and retaliation measures, both of which would harm the city and raise the stakes even higher. Judging from initial responses, the effects are relatively mild. There were worries that Beijing might respond by banning dual nationality and stripping the status and rights of those applying for the new British National (Overseas) programme . Neither of these has happened yet. Calls to ban civil servants from holding a BN(O) passport or applying for the scheme have also not been addressed. The only restriction so far is the non-recognition of BN(O) passports for travel and identification purposes by the mainland and local authorities. The actual impact is indeed minimal, because many locals may continue to leave and return with special administrative region passports and identity cards. The United States and Canada have also said they will continue to recognise the BN(O) passport. Beijing’s targeted approach reflects a sense of pragmatism. It seems more a diplomatic gesture rather than an attempt to crack down and punish. There may have been legal uncertainties and confusion had more sweeping sanctions been imposed. Unfortunately, those from ethnic minority communities with only BN(O) passports are affected and will have to apply for a Document of Identity for international travel. The Hong Kong families struggling to decide whether to leave for Britain Whether there will be more tit-for-tat action remains to be seen, and this may well hinge on the popularity of the latest scheme and international reaction. There was not a rush of applications over the past two days, which probably reflects the general wait-and-see attitude among potential hopefuls. However, those who turned up at the applications office yesterday are apparently determined to leave even with them having to land in Britain within 90 days of approval. Some 7,000 people have already left for the country since the scheme was announced last July. Emigration is, ultimately, a matter of individual choice and should be respected. Such a decision is not to be taken lightly. The staggered arrivals provided for successful applicants and their dependants will make it easier for those who wish to remain in the city to earn a living, but the six-year residency requirement for full citizenship and higher taxation still needs to be taken into consideration. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has dismissed worries of an exodus, saying the city’s future remains bright. It is to be hoped that this is the case. The last thing we want is the scheme causing more shock waves and people losing hope in the future.