“This is the Committee that is going to make sure that every Hong Konger is given the best possible welcome,” said Lord Stephen Greenhalgh of the Department for Levelling-up, Housing and Communities, at an event to mark the formal launch of the Welcoming Committee for Hong Kongers.
The reception also marked the first anniversary of the UK’s British National (Overseas) visa scheme, which allows people from Hong Kong to live, work and study in Britain. To date around 90,000 people have applied to the scheme. The importance of that policy decision should not be underestimated, said Daniel Korski, Chair of the Welcoming Committee.
“It is a truly extraordinary decision that, many years from now, will be looked back on as one of the most momentous decisions made by any British government for a very long time,” he said.
The reception brought together Hong Kongers and representatives of the organisations across the country that are working to welcome them into UK society.
It was hosted by the Welcoming Committee for Hong Kongers – an independent, non-profit umbrella group for all those who care about the integration of new arrivals from Hong Kong – in partnership with Stand With Hong Kong.
Daniel Korski set out why he and others had founded the Welcoming Committee:
“Something was needed… that would bring the entire effort together: so we could speak, not necessarily with one voice but in a coordinated fashion. So that government could understand what the needs and requirements are and where policy might need to change. That was why we established the Welcoming Committee for Hong Kongers.”
Kathleen Ng, a Hong Konger who is working with the Welcoming Committee, spoke of the different needs that new arrivals might have:
“I have met many Hong Kongers who have recently arrived and are trying to make their new homes here. There is a great diversity among these new Hong Kongers: young, single people; families with school-age children; multi-generational families with grandparents. While some will settle in quite easily, others will need help with jobs, homes, learning English or even just meeting new people.”
The Welcoming Committee brings together the ‘welcomers’ and the ‘welcomed’ and helps coordinate efforts across the UK’s nations and regions from civil society, communities, business, education and government to support Hong Kongers to settle in the UK. It also conducts research to inform policy, share best practice and support organisations to make their voices heard. The Welcoming Committee is hosted at independent think tank British Future, which works for a confident and inclusive Britain, welcoming and fair to all.
Welcoming the new initiative, Lord Greenhalgh spoke of his own personal connection with the drive to extend a warm welcome to Hong Kongers:
“I’m the son of a refugee. My mother came to this country and she became a teacher and married my father. And this great country gave her a huge stability because it stands for freedom and tolerance within a framework of the rule of law.
“I think it’s wonderful to have those 90,000 come [from Hong Kong] – and hopefully many more.”
And Kathleen Ng summed up the positive atmosphere at the event, as people connected and shared their welcoming plans:
“Today I am hopeful and excited as I look out at all of you here. While people will have different viewpoints and experiences, I see that we actually have one shared agenda, which is to help Hong Kongers integrate successfully, and to benefit British society.”
The Welcoming Committee is inviting everyone who is involved or interested in welcoming Hong Kongers to join this new network – visit https://welcomehk.org/ for more details