The British BNO fund to support Hong Kongers when protest leader Nathan Law granted asylum

“Backed by more than £ 43 million, the Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) Integration Program will help permit holders access housing, employment and education support to ensure they can quickly integrate and contribute to their newfound communities,” said the British Home Office. in a statement.

“This move is a result of the UK’s historical and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong who chose to maintain their ties with the UK by taking on BN (O) status in 1997. choose to do so to do. ”

BN (O) holders were given 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 after that last year Beijing’s imposition of a National Security Law on Hong Kong prohibiting secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces. The law has already had a profound effect on the city’s political life, with nearly every prominent opposition politician currently charged with overthrow and widespread self-censorship.

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

Both steps met with widespread international criticism, particularly from the UK, which claimed that the laws violated an agreement governing the 1997 handover of Hong Kong. Beijing, in turn, has accused London of acting illegally by offering Hong Kongers a path to citizenship under the BN (O) plan.

Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, earlier this year accused the UK of ignoring the fact “it has been 24 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland” and violating promises made at the time of the transfer.

He said BN (O) ‘s plan “seriously violates China’s sovereignty, interferes grossly in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs, and is in serious breach of international law and the fundamental norms of international relations.”

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

In a statement, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said London had “pledged to defend the freedom of the people of Hong Kong, and so 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 in the world of this nature,” she added. “We are working hard to successfully resettle people here and recognize that there is nothing more difficult than leaving your home and rebuilding a life in a new country.”

Most of the money goes to congregations in England “to provide targeted support to newcomers”, including English language lessons and housing assistance for those who need it. About £ 5 million will be used to set up “12 Virtual Welcome Hubs” in the UK to help Hong Kongers apply for schools, register with GPs or set up a business.

Protest leader Nathan Law has granted asylum

While millions of Hong Kongers qualify for BN (O) status, many of the younger protesters who took part in anti-government unrest that rocked the city in 2019 and attracted global attention will have been born late.

In the past year, authorities have begun to arrest and prosecute suspects of protest-related crimes, while other protest leaders and activists have been charged under national security law.

This has led some to flee abroad and seek asylum, including former lawmaker and leader of the Umbrella Movement Nathan Law, 27, who said Wednesday he had been granted refugee status in the UK after moving there last year for fear of being prosecuted under security law.

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

“The fact that I am wanted under national security law shows that I am exposed to serious political persecution and that I am unlikely to return to Hong Kong without risk,” Law said on Twitter. However, my situation may not apply to all asylum seekers in Hong Kong. Some may not have enough evidence to support their claims due to a lack of media reports or because they are fleeing the prosecution. Most of them fear that their allegations are rejected.

Law said he hoped the Home Office would “consider more comprehensive evidence” in cases involving protesters in Hong Kong, so that more people can apply for asylum in the UK.