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UK unveils $59M fund to support Hong Kongers as protest leader granted asylum

“Backed by over £43 million, the Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) Integration Programme will help status holders access housing, work and educational support to ensure they are able to quickly integrate and contribute to their newfound communities,” the UK Home Office mentioned in an announcement.

“The move delivers on the UK’s historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking up BN(O) status in 1997. It provides them with a pathway to live in the UK should they choose to do so.”

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

That modified final yr, after Beijing’s imposition of a nationwide safety legislation on Hong Kong, which banned secession, subversion and collusion with overseas forces. The legislation has already had a significant impact on town’s political life, with virtually each distinguished opposition politician presently dealing with subversion costs, and widespread self-censorship.

Last month, Beijing handed a brand new election legislation for Hong Kong, additional limiting the precise of individuals within the metropolis to select their leaders.

Both 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 appearing illegally by offering a pathway to citizenship for Hong Kongers beneath the BN(O) scheme.

Speaking earlier this yr, Chinese overseas affairs ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the UK of disregarding the very 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 “seriously violates China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and seriously violates international law and basic norms of international relations.”

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

In an announcement, British Home Secretary Priti Patel mentioned London had “promised to uphold freedom for the people of Hong Kong, which is why I am proud that we have been able to support so many people when they have needed our help.”

“It’s an unprecedented and generous scheme and there is no other visa in the world of this nature,” she added. “We are working hard to successfully resettle people here and recognize there is nothing more difficult than leaving your home to rebuild a life in a new country.”

Most of the cash will go to councils in England “to provide targeted support for new arrivals,” together with English language classes and assist with housing for individuals who want it. Some £5 million can be used to set up “12 virtual welcome hubs” throughout the UK, to help Hong Kongers in issues such as making use of for faculties, registering with GPs or establishing companies.

Protest leader Nathan Law granted asylum

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

In the previous 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 legislation.

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 Movement leader Nathan Law, 27, who said Wednesday he had been granted refugee standing within the UK, having moved there final yr amid fears he could be prosecuted beneath the safety legislation.

While Law is older than many protesters, he was born in mainland China, and so will not be eligible for the BN(O) scheme.

“The fact that I am wanted under the National Security Law shows that I am exposed to severe political persecution and am unlikely to return to Hong Kong without risk,” Law mentioned on Twitter. “My situation, however, may not apply to all Hong Kong asylum seekers. Some may not have enough evidence to substantiate their claims due to lack of media reports or fleeing before the persecution. Fears over their claims being denied, most of them live in distress and anxiety.”

Law mentioned he hoped the Home Office would “consider more comprehensive evidence” in circumstances involving Hong Kong protesters, so as to allow extra to declare asylum within the UK.

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Updated on April 23, 2021 4:59 am

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