Published: 12:18, 08 April 2021
| Updated: 13:22, 08 April 2021
The UK has granted asylum to a leading democracy activist from Hong Kong as ministers set out a £43 million support package for families using a new visa route to come to Britain from its former territory.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK had a proud history of providing protection to those who need it as he confirmed Nathan Law had been granted asylum.
Meanwhile the Government set out the help that is on offer for Hongkongers eligible to use the new visa route to come to the UK.
Mr Law said the Home Office had approved his asylum application in a move which could further inflame tensions with Beijing.
“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,” he said.
Mr Raab confirmed the move on Thursday, saying: “Former elected Hong Kong politician, Nathan Law, has been granted asylum in the UK.
“The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it.”
The introduction of the national security law in Hong Kong led the UK to offer a route out of the territory for eligible citizens.
Welcome hubs will help arrivals from Hong Kong access housing, education and employment to build a life in the UK, according to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) status and their dependants are eligible for the new immigration route, which was announced in the wake of Beijing’s national security law being imposed on Hong Kong last year.
Councils in England will receive £30.7 million to provide targeted support for new arrivals, covering additional English language assistance and support with housing costs for those who need it, according to the MHCLG.
As the areas of support covered by these funds are devolved, £5.8 million will be provided to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver similar activity.
A further £5 million will establish 12 virtual welcome hubs across the UK, with funds for projects such as local helplines for practical advice and assistance, while the MHCLG will develop dedicated Hong Kong educational resources for schools.
The UK needs to send a clear message to China that destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy has consequences
John Song, from grassroots advocacy organisation Stand with Hong Kong, said: “Providing these supports and education programmes will be vital to help Hongkongers fleeing to the UK to settle and integrate.
“However, as the joint signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the UK also has a responsibility to hold China to account for its gross human rights violations.
“The UK needs to send a clear message to China that destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy has consequences.”
The BN(O) status was created before the UK handed responsibility for Hong Kong back to China in July 1997.
Under the new scheme, those with BN(O) status will be eligible for UK visas then, after five years, they will be able to apply for settlement, followed by British citizenship after a further 12 months.
As of March 19, approximately 27,000 BN(O) status holders and their family members had applied for a visa since January.
Between 123,000 and 153,700 BN(O) status holders and their dependants are expected to use the route to the UK in the first year, rising to between 258,000 and 322,400 over five years.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the support package ensures the “very best start” for BN(O) status holders and their families, supporting them to “find a home, schools for their children, opportunity and prosperity”.