The Revd Liz Jackson, Associate Archdeacon of Berkshire, has a plan to provide practical help and support for Hongkongers arriving in Reading, Berkshire, and she’s asking people across the Diocese of Oxford for help.
Thirty-four thousand residency visa applications from people in Hong Kong were received during April and May. The government estimates that around 300,000 people from British National (Overseas) families will take up the visa offer over the next five years.
In June 2020, Beijing imposed the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL). The law criminalised protests and other forms of anti-government organising. People have since been charged based on what they posted online or have said in public. It’s led to a rapidly deteriorating political situation in Hong Kong, including the recent closure of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy newspaper after 26 years of publication.
The Times (5 July 2021) reports that ‘more than 100,000 people have left Hong Kong to emigrate abroad in the wake of the law, which prompted several western countries to offer immigration paths for Hong Kong residents. Many appear to have be settling in Britain, where the government has allowed holders of the British national (overseas) passports from Hong Kong to live and work before they become eligible to apply for citizenship’ [though it’s worth noting that there is currently no provision for those Hongkongers born after 1997].
A Hong Kong resident identified as John, who has settled in Reading, told The Times that ‘the number of Hong Kong families in his neighbourhood increased from dozens to hundreds in the past six months.’
A further complication for those arriving in communities where there is a sizeable Chinese population already is the potential for tensions between groups that identify with China and those fleeing from it.
Feeling supported can make a huge difference when people arrive in the UK for the first time. Everything is different in their new home country, so help to practise English and to find a new job makes everything else a lot easier.
So how can we offer a warm welcome and practical support for new arrivals to the area? The Revd Liz Jackson, Associate Archdeacon of Berkshire, is leading an initiative to provide online structured language learning and employment skills training for Hongkongers arriving in Berkshire.
Working together with the Chinese church in Reading, over 300 people have registered with Revd Liz in recent weeks, seeking support with language learning, friendship and employment skills. But with just 16 volunteers so far, the team are currently only able to work with 89 students.
How you can make a difference
Here’s how you could help people to learn English, get employment and begin to integrate… and you can make a difference wherever you live in the diocese.
Sign up to volunteer just two hours of your time online each week as a teaching assistant
You’ll be working with a lead tutor, so you don’t need formal teaching skills. Volunteers will be working with pre-prepared resources and helping in Zoom breakout rooms to practice what the tutor has set out. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be matched to a timetable and supported with full training before you begin.
Find out more and other useful resources
The Language Learning Links website is in development (though don’t let that stop you from filling in the application form). Check out what’s on the website, and don’t hesitate to contact the team at email@example.com if you’d like to find out more. Don’t forget to give their Facebook page a ‘like’ too!
The UKHK Church Network, part of the Welcome Churches movement, has some great resources for people seeking advice about living in the UK and how churches can be ‘Hong Kong ready’:
Home office news release with link to the welcome pack for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) families
How to apply for the British National (Overseas) visa
Hear from migrants from Hong Kong, now living in Berkshire, as ITV News Meridian’s Mike Pearse reports. Reading and Wokingham are now housing thousands of Hongkongers, due to new security laws which clamp down on protests and freedoms, and the diverse towns are praised for their warm welcomes. Local groups, including the Reading Chinese Christian Church, provide support for migrants to help them settle their children into school, assist in moving house and generally offer a friendly helping hand.