8 Apr 2021

China annoyed as UK grants asylum to Hong Kong activist

9:09 pm on 8 April 2021

Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law said he has been granted political asylum in Britain, where he arrived last July after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on his home city that has been heavily criticised by the West.

ROME, ITALY - AUGUST 25: Exiled Hong Kong's activist Nathan Law meets the press outside of the Italian Foreign Ministry headquarters ahead of a meeting between Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and his Chinese counterpart Minister Wang Yi in Rome, Italy, on August 25, 2020.

Nathan Law says he would suffer "severe political persecution" if he returned to Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

The move is certain to ratchet up tensions between London and Beijing as Britain opens its doors to potentially more than five million residents of Hong Kong in the wake of the contentious security legislation.

"After several interviews in four months, the Home Office has informed me that my asylum application is approved," Law said on Twitter late on Wednesday.

"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."

Ramping up sweeteners to lure Hong Kong residents, Britain on Thursday pledged 43 million pounds ($NZ84 million) 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.

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Thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets to protest during 2019. Photo: AFP

Britain has violated international law and interfered in Hong Kong's judicial system, said China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, in response to a question on the granting of asylum.

"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 British capital.

London estimates that over 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 $US36 billion in 2021.

- Reuters

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