Britain’s home secretary held her first meeting with Hong Kong activists on Wednesday, including former lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung, as she finalised plans to let a large number of Hongkongers resettle in the UK.
The Post understands that Priti Patel held a one-hour meeting in Westminster with the activists, who also included 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.
The meeting came less than two months before the new British National (Overseas) visa scheme is launched. It potentially allows millions of Hongkongers with a BN(O) passport, and their dependents, to move to the UK.
Activists and British politicians have called on the UK government to expand the scheme to benefit Hongkongers without a BN(O) passport.
Patel, whose department is responsible for immigration, said she would like to thank “all those who attended for sharing their experiences with me”.
“The United Kingdom will stand by the people of Hong Kong and keep our promise to protect and uphold their freedoms,” Patel added.
Law said he was “very grateful” to Patel “for her effort in crafting this policy and we had a constructive dialogue about it”.
“The BN(O) scheme means a lot to Hong Kong people who had tasted freedom but are gradually losing it. It helps them to live free from political persecution,” said Law, a close political ally of jailed student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government introduced the new scheme soon after Beijing imposed the national security law in June, which London called a “draconian” breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which agreed the terms of the city’s return to Chinese rule.
China previously accused Britain of interfering in its internal affairs over the BN(O) scheme and threatened not to recognise the passports, which were issued to Hongkongers during colonial times and did not confer the full benefits of British citizenship.
The meeting was set up by Conservative candidate for London mayor Shaun Bailey and Luke de Pulford, from the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, who said Patel showed “personal commitment” to the issue of Hongkongers.
“Only in exceptional circumstances would a British secretary of state meet with activists,” de Pulford said.
“This should give Hong Kong people, who now face extremely difficult choices, some comfort that they will find a receptive home in Britain.”
Under the citizenship scheme, there will be no cap on the number of BN(O) passport holders allowed to participate, and applications will open on January 31.
A five-year visa will cost £250 (US$334) per person, while a 30-month visa will be £180 ( per person.
BN(O) holders will only be able to apply for British citizenship after five years of residency.
There have been calls on the British government to also accept those born after 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule.
Members of the British Parliament have also raised concerns that Hong Kong protesters who have a criminal record as a result of their political activities may face legal obstacles when applying for British citizenship.
He knows nothing and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.