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Inspired by jailed activist Joshua Wong, British social entrepreneur helps Hongkongers integrate into UK

A face-to-face meeting with democracy activist Joshua Wong led a British social entrepreneur to set up an organization to help Hong Kong immigrants adapt to life in the United Kingdom.

Philanthropist Krish Kandiah interviewed Wong for the BBC in November 2019, at the height of the clashes between protesters and police at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University. Wong talked about his faith and how the Bible sustained him when the going got tough, which Kandiah found “touching,” he told Apple Daily.

Kandiah then founded UKHK.org, a platform to help Hongkongers in Britain, and played an instrumental role in setting up a meeting last month between U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and four Hong Kong families who had recently settled in the country.

“The U.K. has opened this border to Hong Kong. There are practical things we can do to help people,” Kandiah said.

“This is not a political movement, we are not telling people they should leave Hong Kong … Our feeling is if people come to the U.K., they are our neighbors.”

The British government in 2020 announced a visa scheme for holders of the British National (Overseas) passport in Hong Kong, which would let them migrate to the U.K. more easily and provide a “pathway to citizenship.” Authorities received 27,000 applications from late January up to mid-March.

Last Thursday, the British government further announced a £43 million (US$59 million) support package for Hongkongers arriving in the country under the visa scheme. The program will fund initiatives to help Hongkongers with housing, education and employment.

Support groups — like the one founded by Kandiah — also plays crucial roles in making sure that Hongkongers feel welcome. In December, Kandiah started the “Hong Kong Ready” program, which turns churches into outreach centers for Hong Kong migrants.

“Now we have over 400 churches on the map. Another 600 churches are going through training at the moment … being trained to know how they can offer practical help to the people who arrived,” he said.

Kandiah said his next step was to arrange for Hongkongers to meet with the Education Secretary. He said Hongkongers are moving mainly to give their children a better education.

“We want to make sure they are looked after,” he said.

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