The United Kingdom is expecting tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents to arrive this year and a UK-wide church initiative is welcoming them to Britain as they leave their region that once cherished its civil liberties, but has seen them eroded since China took over.
The website, www.UKHK.org, was launched in London on Feb. 12 by Home for Good founder Krish Kandiah with the help of the Anglican Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally.
"Hospitality is one of the defining features of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Jesus once said, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me in. Because what we do for the least of these we do for him," Kandiah says on the website.
"There's a huge opportunity right now for the church to show that Jesus loving hospitality to people who need our help.
"Around 130,000 people are expected to come to the UK from Hong Kong, just this year alone.
Hong Kong was a British colony until its handover to Beijing in 1997, when the "one country, two systems" and it became a Special Administration Region of China.
500 CHURCHES SIGNED UP
Christian Today reported that 500 churches in Britain had signed up Anglican churches, Baptist, ethnic Chinese, charismatic, evangelical churches and the Salvation Army including the iconic St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
On Jan. 31, the United Kingdom announced an immigration program that will ease UK citizenship requirements for millions of Hong Kong citizens who want to leave the territory following continued pressure from Beijing on civil liberties, accorfing to Deutsche Welle.
UK government forecasts say the new visa could attract more than 300,000 people and their dependents to Britain, Reuters reported noting that Beijing said it would make them second-class citizens.
The UK Home Office estimates there are 2.9 million British National Overseas, or BNO, status holders eligible to move to the UK, with a further estimated 2.3 million eligible dependents, according to the BBC.
The launch of the website coincided with Chinese New Year and a warning from persecution watchdog Release International that the freedoms once enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong are "all gone," said Christian Today.
It quoted freedom activist Bob Fu said: "The crackdown is so severe in some areas of Hong Kong that freedom of speech and freedom of association is actually worse than in mainland China.
"There is arbitrary detention, massive surveillance and a huge crackdown of legally elected legislators.
"One church has had its bank account frozen, just for considering helping victims of political persecution.
"What is happening in Hong Kong sends a chilling message all over the world. The world should take note: there is no rule of law anymore, no independence, no freedom of the press, no freedom of association, no freedom of speech anymore in Hong Kong. These are all gone."
Under the new scheme, these people will be able to apply online for a visa.
BNO arrivals from Hong Kong are allowed to live, work and study in the UK as long as they can financially support themselves, according to the BBC.
After five years in the UK, they will be able to apply for citizenship.
BNO status is a legacy of British colonial rule specifically granted to Hong Kong residents born before the territory was handed back to China in 1997.
The special status of citizenship is a type of British nationality created in 1985 that people in Hong Kong could apply for before the 1997 handover to China to retain a link with the UK.
The lifelong status, which cannot be passed down to family members, did not give holders any special rights.
It meant only they could visit the UK for six months without a visa.
But the new system, in place from Jan. 31, allows these BNO citizens and their close family to apply for two periods of five years to live and work in the UK.
The UKHK.org website is available in English and Cantonese and will serve new arrivals from Hong Kong with information on many things they need to know.
These include getting settled in the UK, navigating the British education system, applying for jobs, registering with a medical doctor, traveling on public transport, and where they can find good Cantonese food.
The arrival of the Hong Kongers expected to arrive in the UK this year on the BNO visa in the largest planned migration to the UK since Windrush.
People arriving in the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries have been labelled the Windrush generation.
Of some 7.2 million Hong Kong residents, some 12 percent of them are Christians
"You don't have to be a follower of Jesus to join in with a church community - everyone is welcome," says the website.