UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, met with Hong Kong activists at Westminster recently ahead of the launch of the new British National (Overseas) visa scheme.
Patel held a one-hour session with former lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Beatrice Li, whose brother Andy Li was one of 12 people detained by Shenzhen authorities while attempting to flee Hong Kong for Taiwan in August.
Mr Law, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and Ms Li both have Chinese arrest warrants against them. Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for London Mayor was also present at the meeting and hosted proceedings.
BNO visa launch
The new BNO visa will launch on 31 January, 2021 and will allow eligible Hong Kong nationals to live and work in the UK under the fast-track immigration scheme.
Following the meeting, Priti Patel said: “The United Kingdom will stand by the people of Hong Kong and keep our promise to protect and uphold their freedoms.”
Mr Law expressed his gratitude to the UK and the Home Secretary, saying: “The BNO scheme means a lot to Hong Kong people who had tasted freedom but gradually losing it. It helps them to live free from political persecution. I am very grateful to the Home Secretary Priti Patel for her effort in crafting this policy and we had a constructive dialogue about it.”
The meeting’s host, Mr Bailey said: “The meeting was arranged because London is a global city with global responsibilities. I am impressed by the bravery and courage young Hong Kongers have shown in standing up for their rights and freedoms. I want Hong Kong citizens to know that if they come to London, they’ll be welcomed with open arms.”
Ms Li said that it would give her brother Andy ‘comfort’ knowing that she had attended a meeting with the UK Home Secretary. She said: “He [Andy], like many Hong Kong people, has sacrificed their freedom and possibly lives to raise awareness about what is happening to our home.”
“We thank the Home Secretary, and hope that the UK will do more in the face of the total destruction of our way of life,” Ms Li added.
The UK BNO visa scheme was announced amid the imposition of Chinese security laws on Hong Kong. Since striking a deal to hand back the territory to China in 1997, the UK has accused Beijing of multiple breaches of the deal.
A UK government statement said: “China’s security laws and moves to disqualify legislators have undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”
China’s actions toward Hong Kong prompted the UK to offer up to three million nationals of the Special Administrative Region - a part of Britain’s former colony - a pathway to UK citizenship, much to China’s fury.
Beijing’s bullying of Hong Kong has also triggered action from other countries, including the United States, with America’s House of Representatives recently voting to ‘open the country’s borders’ to Hong Kong residents facing persecution in their home country. The US has also imposed visa sanctions on China amid the Hong Kong row.
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