Chinese spies target UK in visa plot

UK Visa to Chinese

Chinese spies are posing as refugees in an attempt to enter Britain through a resettlement scheme designed for Hongkongers, The Times can reveal.

Government sources have said they are aware of sleeper agents applying for British National (Overseas) visas under the pretence of seeking refuge from the totalitarian state.

“There are stringent background checks in place for the visa applications – and they’re in place for a reason,” government sources said. “The vetting process for the BNO visa scheme is much more thorough than any other.”

Lord Patten of Barnes, the last governor of Hong Kong, said: “We are dealing with a totalitarian state which uses informers. If anybody has fears that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will seek to place informers and people who will steal security secrets in open societies then they are entirely justified. We should get real about this.”

He added that he believed the BNO scheme was the right response to China imposing the National Security Law.

The law imposed stringent measures on Hongkongers, ostensibly to prevent terrorism, but it was seen by many as an attack on freedom of speech.

The legislation claims universal jurisdiction, making it feasible that China would seek to investigate, prosecute and extradite suspects anywhere in the world. It covers offences committed against Hong Kong “from outside the region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the region”.

There have been more than 30,000 applications from Hongkongers seeking to come to Britain since the passing of the National Security Law. Many became concerned after the closure of the newspaper Apple Daily. This, coupled with invasive measures from Beijing, led to an exodus. The newspaper’s proprietor Jimmy Lai, 73, a prodemocracy figure, was jailed for 14 months in April for participating in an “unlawful assembly.” He also faces criminal charges under the National Security Law.

Tong Ying-kit, 24, was the first person to be jailed under the law and received a nine-year term. In the past ten days a former district councilor from Hong Kong arrived in Britain. Asking not to be named, he said: “The case of Tong Yin-kit, the first case under the National Security Law, disillusioned any hope in me of the rule of law and the judiciary system of Hong Kong . . . I was one of the former district councilors who were forced to resign. I was in fear of prosecution in my last days in Hong Kong.

“I agree with the concern and worry over the influence of Beijing on established Chinese bodies in Britain . . . I do worry about Beijing’s influence on the British parliament and British values through these Chinese societies.

“The CCP is used to making use of whatever means it has to exert influence on foreign governments for its own benefit . . . perhaps the UK government might consider introducing restrictions on BNO visa holders being involved in political actions against the British national interest.”

Patten said: “I think what has happened in Hong Kong is the deliberate and conscious breaking of a treaty by the government of China. They are now setting about to destroy a people’s way of life and the rule of law, and people who believe in freedom of speech and the rule of law are leaving and I am delighted that the government is allowing them to stay.”

Jabez Lam, 65, who helps Hong–kongers arriving in Britain, added that there were fears some British-based Chinese would report to Beijing on recent arrivals. Lam, who has lived in Britain since 1973, said: “For individuals arriving from Hong Kong, they don’t know which organisation is pro-Chinese Communist Party or which organisation is neutral.

“When I am first in contact with them, most of them are very wary and it takes a long time to gain their trust. I think most of them have post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences of the oppression, persecution and suppression in Hong Kong. There is also the fear of the safety of their family even when they are here.”

He added that the visa scheme would need to be wary of admitting Hong Kong police “who took part in the oppression and suppression of people”.

The Home Office said: “There are safeguards in place throughout the application process to ensure it is free from abuse and helps those most in need. The BNO visa route reflects the UK’s historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong.”

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