UK unveils $59M fund to assist Hong Kongers as protest chief granted asylum

2021-04-08 10:10:23

“Backed by over £43 million, the Hong Kong British Nationals (Abroad) Integration Programme will assist standing holders entry housing, work and academic assist to make sure they can shortly combine and contribute to their newfound communities,” the UK Residence Workplace mentioned in a assertion.

“The transfer delivers on the UK’s historic and ethical dedication to the folks of Hong Kong who selected to retain their ties to the UK by taking on BN(O) standing in 1997. It supplies them with a pathway to stay within the UK ought to they select to take action.”

BN(O) holders had been granted a particular standing within the Eighties, however for many years the doc didn’t give them the best to work or stay within the UK.

That modified final yr, after Beijing’s imposition of a nationwide safety regulation on Hong Kong, which banned secession, subversion and collusion with overseas forces. The regulation has already had a serious impact on the town’s political life, with nearly each distinguished opposition politician at present going through subversion costs, and widespread self-censorship.

Final month, Beijing handed a brand new election regulation for Hong Kong, additional limiting the best of individuals within the metropolis to decide on their leaders.

Each strikes had been met with widespread worldwide criticism, significantly from the UK, which argued the legal guidelines breached an settlement governing Hong Kong’s 1997 handover. In flip, Beijing has accused London of performing illegally by offering a pathway to citizenship for Hong Kongers beneath the BN(O) scheme.

Talking earlier this yr, Chinese language overseas affairs ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the UK of disregarding the actual fact “it has been 24 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland” and violating guarantees made on the time of handover.

He mentioned the BN(O) plan “significantly violates China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s inner affairs, and significantly violates worldwide regulation and fundamental norms of worldwide relations.”

The Beijing and Hong Kong governments have mentioned they are going to not acknowledge BN(O) passports as a legitimate journey doc, although most holders additionally maintain Hong Kong or different passports, so the impact of this shall be restricted.

In an announcement, British Residence Secretary Priti Patel mentioned London had “promised to uphold freedom for the folks of Hong Kong, which is why I’m proud that we’ve got been capable of assist so many individuals once they have wanted our assist.”

“It is an unprecedented and beneficiant scheme and there’s no different visa on the earth of this nature,” she added. “We’re working arduous to efficiently resettle folks right here and acknowledge there may be nothing harder than leaving your house to rebuild a life in a brand new nation.”

Many of the cash will go to councils in England “to supply focused assist for brand new arrivals,” together with English language classes and assist with housing for many who want it. Some £5 million shall be used to ascertain “12 digital welcome hubs” throughout the UK, to assist Hong Kongers in issues comparable to making use of for colleges, registering with GPs or organising companies.

Protest chief Nathan Regulation granted asylum

Whereas tens of millions of Hong Kongers are eligible for BN(O) standing, lots of the youthful protesters who took half in anti-government unrest which rocked the town in 2019 and attracted worldwide consideration can have been born too late.

Prior to now yr, authorities have begun rounding up and prosecuting these suspected of protest-related offenses, whereas different protest leaders and activists have been charged beneath the nationwide safety regulation.

Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law (C) takes part in a demonstration on September 1, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
This has led some to flee abroad and declare asylum, together with former lawmaker and Umbrella Motion chief Nathan Regulation, 27, who mentioned Wednesday he had been granted refugee standing within the UK, having moved there final yr amid fears he could be prosecuted beneath the safety regulation.

Whereas Regulation is older than many protesters, he was born in mainland China, and so is just not eligible for the BN(O) scheme.

“The truth that I’m needed beneath the Nationwide Safety Regulation exhibits that I’m uncovered to extreme political persecution and am unlikely to return to Hong Kong with out danger,” Regulation mentioned on Twitter. “My scenario, nevertheless, could not apply to all Hong Kong asylum seekers. Some could not have sufficient proof to substantiate their claims resulting from lack of media reviews or fleeing earlier than the persecution. Fears over their claims being denied, most of them stay in misery and anxiousness.”

Regulation mentioned he hoped the Residence Workplace would “think about extra complete proof” in instances involving Hong Kong protesters, in order to allow extra to say asylum within the UK.

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