UK launches package for settlers from HK

·1-min read

Britain has pledged STG43 million ($A78 million) to help people arriving from Hong Kong find jobs, houses and schools under an initiative allowing millions to resettle after China's imposition of new security laws in the former British colony.

An escalating row with Beijing over reforms in Hong Kong has seen Britain open its doors to potentially more than five million people, offering them the chance to live and work in the country and eventually apply for citizenship.

The bulk of the money announced on Thursday will be spent by local government on programs to help with English language support and housing costs for new arrivals. The government will also launch 12 virtual regional offices to provide help with tasks such as registering for healthcare and schools.

Britain says Chinese-imposed security laws and democracy reforms in Hong Kong have violated the terms of the agreement that saw the semi-autonomous city handed back to China in 1997. Ministers say the visa program is a way of honouring its side of that deal.

China has reacted angrily to the offer and says the West's views on its actions over Hong Kong are clouded by misinformation and an imperial hangover.

Since its launch in January, about 27,000 people had applied for the new visa as of March 19. Although overall estimates of demand are uncertain, the government forecasts between 258,000 and 322,000 applicants over five years.

The program is open to 2.9 million people classed as British National (Overseas) - a special status that specifically relates to Hong Kong - and a further 2.3 million eligible dependents.