High-profile Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law, who fled to Britain last June, has been granted political asylum in England, prompting an outcry from Beijing on Thursday.
“After several interviews in 4 months, the Home Office has informed me that my asylum application is approved.
“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,” Law said in a tweet.
The 27-year-old former lawmaker fled Hong Kong just as Beijing implemented a controversial national security law targeting secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces, and terrorism.
Britain’s foreign secretary confirmed that political asylum had been granted.
“The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it,” Dominic Raab tweeted.
Authorities in Hong Kong have increasingly used the legislation to crack down on all opposition, with a focus on the territory’s pro-democracy movement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian condemned Law’s successful asylum claim.
“If the UK blatantly endorses Hong Kong separatists and shelters this so-called criminal, they are grossly interfering in Hong Kong’s judiciary, violating international law and basic norms of international relations, as well as the rule of law principle,” he said.
Law said that he hoped his case would help Britain’s Home Office “understand more about the complicated situation in Hong Kong.”
“To free more protesters from Beijing’s authoritarian oppression, the Home Office could consider more comprehensive evidence when coping with Hong Kong cases.”
When he was elected at the age of 23 in 2016, Law was the youngest MP in the history of the former British Crown Colony.
However, Law lost his seat a year later when a court found that he and other activists had been insincere in taking their oaths of office.
He was to face trial last year for illegal gathering but fled to Britain in June, shortly before Beijing passed the security law for the autonomous governed Special Administrative Region of China.
Law noted that his situation may not apply to all Hong Kong asylum seekers.
“Fears over their claims being denied, most of them live in distress and anxiety.
“Thus, I hope that my case can help the Home Office understand more about the complicated situation in Hong Kong,” he added.
Also on Thursday, Britain’s Housing Ministry announced a new 43 million pound (59 million dollar) welcome package for those fleeing Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) Integration Programme will help status holders access housing, work, and educational support to ensure they are able to quickly integrate and contribute to their new communities, the government said.
Five million pounds of the sum will be used to establish 12 virtual welcome hubs across every region in England, and in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The hubs will be there to coordinate support and give advice to people when applying for school places, registering with GPs, and setting up businesses. (dpa/NAN)