More than 34,000 people have already applied for the visa, Khan said, though most haven’t yet arrived in the U.K. because of the pandemic. International travel has been severely restricted and Hong Kong was only added to England’s “green list” of safe countries on Monday, meaning that people arriving from there do not need to quarantine on arrival unless they test positive.
“We think between a quarter and a third (of the arrivals) will choose London as their destination, but it’s early days yet,” Khan said in an interview.
The mayor said he was keen to send a message to Hong Kongers that London “will welcome you with open arms.”
“For me, it’s quite clear we’ve got a moral obligation to help those from Hong Kong. But also that’s the history of London. We’ve been doing this for successive decades,” he said.
His office will use government funding and work with community groups to advise and help Hong Kongers navigate the challenges of finding housing, schools and jobs, he added.
“Hundreds of thousands have left because of the pandemic and because of Brexit,” he said. “So, look, we’ve got record numbers of vacancies (in) the job market in London.”
Khan acknowledged that hate crimes against Chinese and Asian people in the capital have increased since January 2020, when the pandemic first began spreading from China. But he said that the number of such crimes have come down from a “previous spike.”
Britain’s government estimates that up to 322,000 people will take up the new visa over five years.
Since China implemented the new national security law in June, more than 100 pro-democracy supporters have been arrested and many others have fled abroad. The crackdown on dissent hardened in recent weeks, when Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, was forced to cease publication.
FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, May 17, 2021, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, holds a dumpling he prepared, during a visit to Dumplings Legend in China Town central London. Khan on Thursday July 22, 2021, sent a message of support to Hong Kong people fleeing China’s crackdown on democracy to seek a new life in the U.K., saying his office will spend 900,000 pounds (dollars 1.2 million US) to help new arrivals with housing, education and finding jobs. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, FILE)
Credit: Alastair Grant
Credit: Alastair Grant