500 churches sign up to welcome new arrivals from Hong Kong
A UK-wide Church initiative has been launched to welcome Hong Kong residents migrating to the UK as a result of China's increasing suppression in the city.
The website, www.UKHK.org, was launched in London on Friday by Home for Good founder Krish Kandiah with the help of the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally.
The website is available in English and Cantonese and will serve as a one-stop-shop for new arrivals from Hong Kong with information on everything they need to know about getting settled in the UK, from navigating the British education system and applying for jobs, to registering with a GP, travelling on public transport, and where they can find good Cantonese food.
Over 500 churches have already signed up to be 'Hong Kong ready' via the website, which has been launched after the UK Government opened the door to Hong Kong holders of the British National Overseas (BNO) passport.
Around 130,000 Hong Kongers are expected to arrive in the UK this year on the BNO visa in the largest planned migration to the UK since Windrush.
Hong Kong was a British colony until the handover in 1997, when the 'one country, two systems' principle was enacted.
However, Beijing last year ramped up its control of the Special Administrative Region by introducing the national security law that has led to the incarceration of numerous democracy activists, including Christian Joshua Wong.
Dr Krish Kandiah, founder and director of UKHK, said: "Moving continents is difficult at the best of times but it is particularly challenging during a global pandemic.
"That's why we want to welcome the new arrivals here today in the centre of London, conjuring the spirit of the 2012 Olympics, and show off the best of Great Britain.
"In normal times, we would also have liked to put on special events, like concerts, dances, poetry recitals, film screenings, park football matches, picnics, and supper clubs.
"As it is, we will have to make do with Zoom calls and virtual bonding for now."
The launch of the website coincided with Chinese New Year and a warning from persecution watchdog Release International that the freedoms once enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong are "all gone".
Religious freedom activist Bob Fu said: "The crackdown is so severe in some areas of Hong Kong that freedom of speech and freedom of association is actually worse than in mainland China.
"There is arbitrary detention, massive surveillance and a huge crackdown of legally elected legislators.
"One church has had its bank account frozen, just for considering helping victims of political persecution.
"What is happening in Hong Kong sends a chilling message all over the world. The world should take note: there is no rule of law anymore, no independence, no freedom of the press, no freedom of association, no freedom of speech anymore in Hong Kong. These are all gone."
Daniel Korski CBE, former special adviser to prime minister David Cameron, and Vice-President of the Jewish Leadership Council, welcomed the launch of UKHK.
"Chinese New Year is a chance to focus on the great opportunity but also the considerable challenge of settling up to 350,000 Hong Kongers in the UK," he said.
"To succeed will require everyone's support - from central and local government to ordinary Britons.
"The UK has a long history of welcoming people from Huegenots and Jews to more recently Asians and Poles. UKHK is is a fantastic initiative for ordinary Britons to help the latest group, Hong Kongers, to come and settle successfully."
Churches interesting in supporting Hong Kong arrivals can sign up at www.ukhk.org/church