“This decision responds to the UK’s historic and moral commitment to Hong Kong people who have chosen to maintain their ties with the UK by accepting BN (O) status in 1997. It gives them a way to live in the UK. UK if they choose to do so. ”
BN (O) holders were granted 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 on Hong Kong, which prohibits secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces. The law has already had a major effect on the city’s political life, with nearly all prominent opposition politicians currently facing charges of subversion and widespread self-censorship.
Both movements have been the subject of much international criticism, particularly from the UK, which argued that the laws violated an agreement governing the transfer of Hong Kong in 1997. In turn, Beijing blamed London to act illegally by offering a pathway to citizenship for Hong Kong people under the BN (O) program.
He said the BN (O) plan “gravely violates China’s sovereignty, grossly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and gravely violates international law and basic standards of international relations.”
The governments of Beijing and Hong Kong 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 that the effect of this will be limited.
In a statement, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said London had “pledged to maintain 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 “.
“This is an unprecedented and generous program 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 to rebuild a life in a new country.
Most of the money will go to counseling in England “to provide targeted support to newcomers”, including English lessons and housing assistance for those in need. Some £ 5million will be used to establish ’12 virtual drop-in centers’ across the UK, to help Hong Kong people in areas such as applying for schools, enrolling with GPs or business creation.
Protest leader Nathan Law was granted asylum
While millions of Hong Kong people are eligible for BN (O) status, many of the young protesters who took part in the anti-government unrest that rocked the city in 2019 and gained worldwide attention will be born too late.
Over the past year, authorities have started rounding up and prosecuting those suspected of protest-related offenses, while other protest leaders and activists have been charged under the National Security Act.
Although Law is older than many protesters, he was born in mainland China and therefore is not eligible for the BN (O) program.
“The fact that I am wanted under the National Security Act shows that I am exposed to severe political persecution and that it is unlikely that I will return to Hong Kong safely,” Law said on Twitter. “My situation, however, may not apply to all Hong Kong asylum seekers. Some may not have enough evidence to support their claims due to lack of media reporting or the leak before the persecution. Fearing that their requests will be rejected, most of them live in distress and anxiety. ”
Law said he hoped the Home Office would “consider more comprehensive evidence” in cases involving protesters in Hong Kong, in order to allow more to seek asylum in the UK.