UK changes course to allow benefits access for Hong Kongers

LONDON — The Home Office has lifted a ban on access to public funds for Hong Kongers settling in the U.K. who might be at risk of falling into poverty, following pressure from campaigners and the Labour party.

In a statement, the department said that holders of a British National Overseas (BNO) visa at “imminent risk of destitution” will be able to apply for public funds on a case-by-case basis.

In order to do so, Hong Kongers would have to provide the department with evidence of their financial status, or prove they have a child and a very low income.

Boris Johnson’s executive has offered a route to citizenship to potentially millions of Hong Kongers in response to China’s imposition of a draconian national security law on the former British territory.

Simon Cheng, founder of the expatriate community group Hong Kongers in Britain (HKB), welcomed the announcement. Last month, the group wrote to the Home Office calling on the department to exercise discretion in BNO visa holders’ applications for public funds and show compassion to those in genuine need of support.

“HKB would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the Home Office for responding to our concerns, and consistently supporting grassroots families based on compassionate grounds, which is a principle at the core of the BN(O) visa policy, constituting as a lifeboat scheme.”

Three Labour shadow ministers had also called for a change of policy, warning that unless it reduced financial barriers the BNO visa route will only be available “for the rich.”

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