Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law has announced that he had been granted asylum in the United Kingdom, after fleeing the semi-autonomous territory following the introduction of sweeping Chinese security laws.
The 27-year-old former Hong Kong legislator and student activist fled to the UK in July 2020 in the weeks after the National Security Law, opposed by pro-democracy protesters, was imposed.
Law tweeted on Wednesday that he had been granted asylum in the UK after several interviews over four months.
“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,” he wrote.
The activist highlighted the plight of other asylum seekers in the UK from Hong Kong who might not have the same weight of evidence behind their claims.
“I hope that my case can help the 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,” he added.
UK lures Hong Kong residents with new fund
Ramping up sweeteners to lure Hong Kong residents, the UK on Thursday pledged 43 million pounds ($59m) to help them find jobs, houses and schools under the initiative allowing millions to resettle.
The UK has accused China of multiple breaches of an agreement under which it handed the city back to China in 1997. It says China’s security law and moves to disqualify pro-democracy legislators have undermined the semi-autonomous city’s high degree of autonomy.
Hong Kong and Beijing officials have said the law is vital to plug holes in national security defences exposed by months of often violent protests in 2019. China has repeatedly told Western powers to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.
In response to a question on the granting of asylum, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the UK has violated international law and interfered in Hong Kong’s judicial system.
“The UK side should immediately correct its mistake and stop interfering in Hong Kong matters and China’s internal affairs,” he said, speaking at a daily briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
Hong Kongers became the fifth-largest foreign investors in central London as of last August and have been driving up prices in some popular districts outside the UK capital.
London estimates that more than 300,000 Hong Kong residents could emigrate over the next five years, and Bank of America expects Hong Kong residents moving to Britain could trigger capital outflows of $36bn in 2021.
Route to escape
Law’s fate and the fate of potentially millions of Hong Kong people whom the UK has offered a route to escape China’s crackdown, has become a point of bitter diplomatic contention.
China said earlier this year it will not recognise the British National (Overseas) passport for Hong Kong residents because of a new visa scheme introduced in January offering a pathway to full UK citizenship for those who want to leave the territory.
Beijing and London have in recent weeks also disagreed over Chinese sanctions against four UK entities and nine individuals including legislators that have spoken out in defence of China’s Uighur minority.
Last year, the UK protested against jail terms handed to three leading activists from the pro-democracy party Demosisto, which Law co-founded.
The party disbanded on the same day China’s new security legislation was imposed in Hong Kong.
In exile, Law has continued to champion the cause of pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong on social media.
Last month, he hit out at mass trials of activists in Hong Kong saying they showed that “the Chinese Communist party nakedly abuses its powers and uses the courts to demonstrate that power”.