HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of people from Hong Kong are fleeing their hometown since Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the territory last summer.

Many say China’s encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties has become unbearable, and they want to seek a better future for their children abroad.

An exodus has begun to Britain, with many taking advantage of a new immigration pathway that will allow up to 5 million eligible Hong Kongers to live, work and eventually settle in the U.K.

Applications for the British National Overseas visa officially opened Sunday, and Britain's government estimates that over 300,000 people will take up the offer of extended residency rights in the next five years.

China responded by derecognizing U.K.-issued special travel documents.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

Major Newspaper Headlines From the Year You Were Born

KEEP READING: Scroll to see what the big headlines were the year you were born