UK BNO Fund to support Hong Kongers while protest leader Nathan Law granted asylum

“Supported by more than £ 43 million, the Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) Integration Program will help status holders access housing, work and educational support to ensure they are able to integrate quickly and contribute to their new communities” said the UK Home Office. in a statement.

“The change fulfills the UK’s moral and historical commitment to the people of Hong Kong, who chose to maintain their ties to the UK by assuming GN (O) status in 1997. Provides them with a way to live in the Kingdom Kingdom, should you choose to do so. ”

BN (O) holders received special status in the 1980s, but for decades the document did not give them the right to work or live in the UK.

That changed last year, after Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong, which prohibited secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces. The law has already had a major effect on the city’s political life, with almost all prominent opposition politicians currently facing accusations of subversion and widespread self-censorship.

Last month, Beijing passed a new electoral law for Hong Kong, further limiting the right of people in the city to choose their leaders.

Both movements were met with widespread international criticism, particularly from the United Kingdom, which argued that the laws violated an agreement governing the transfer of power from Hong Kong in 1997. Beijing, for its part, accused London of acting illegally in providing a path to citizenship for Hong Kong residents under the BN (O) scheme.

Speaking earlier this year, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, accused the UK of disregarding the fact that “it has been 24 years since Hong Kong returned to the homeland” and of breaking promises made at the time of the transfer.

He said the BN (O) plan “seriously violates China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes with Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs and seriously violates international law and the basic rules of international relations.”

The Beijing and Hong Kong governments have said that they will no longer recognize BN (O) passports as valid travel documents, although most holders also have Hong Kong or other passports, so the effect of this will be limited.

In a statement, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said that London “has promised to defend freedom for the people of Hong Kong, which is why I am proud that we were able to support so many people when they needed our help” .

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

Most of the money will go to councils in England “to provide targeted support for newcomers”, including English classes and housing help for those in need. About £ 5 million will be used to establish “12 virtual welcome centers” across the UK, to assist Hong Kong residents in matters such as enrolling in schools, registering with GPs or setting up businesses.

Protest leader Nathan Law granted asylum

While millions of Hong Kong residents are eligible for BN (O) status, many of the younger protesters who participated in the anti-government unrest that rocked the city in 2019 and attracted worldwide attention were born too late.

Last year, authorities began arresting and prosecuting suspected protest-related crimes, while other protest leaders and activists were charged under national security law.

This led some to flee abroad and seek asylum, including ex-legislator and leader of the Umbrella Movement, Nathan Law, 27, who said wednesday he had received refugee status in the UK, having moved there last year amid fears that he would be prosecuted under security law.

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

“The fact that I am wanted by the National Security Act shows that I am exposed to severe political persecution and it is unlikely that I will return to Hong Kong without risk,” Law said on Twitter. “My situation, however, may not apply to all Hong Kong asylum seekers. Some may not have sufficient evidence to substantiate their allegations due to a lack of media reports or because they fled before the persecution. Anguish and anxiety. ”

Law said he expected the Home Office to “consider more comprehensive evidence” in cases involving Hong Kong protesters, in order to allow more people to apply for asylum in the UK.