Verhofstadt’s attempt to one up UK on Twitter torn apart: ‘EU citizens never get a say!’

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The outspoken Belgian MEP tweeted an article about the UK’s decision to lift a ban on access to public funds for Hong Kongers who have chosen the country as their new home. The change applies to arrivals who are at risk of falling into poverty and will be available on a case-by-case basis. Mr Verhofstadt appeared to slap down Britain’s generous offer to citizens of the former British colony.

He said he would band together with other European lawmakers to introduce a “lifeboat” scheme which would allow Hong Kongers fleeing threats to build a new life on EU soil.

He said: “Together with fellow MEPs I will call for the EU to offer its own ‘lifeboat programme’.

“Hong Kong dissidents falsely convicted or threatened at home deserve a new chance – to live, study & work in Europe!”

But his bid to win points for the bloc backfired when some critics tore apart his pledge.

One person questioned if EU citizens would get to have a say on who can come into their countries and set up home.

They tweeted: “Do the people of Europe get a s.. never mind I asked.

“Of course they don’t. Never did.”

Another questioned if this was the right time for the EU to be extending the arm of friendship to people from another continent, given the huge amount of problems it has of its own.

The person wrote: “Have you asked European citizens many of whom struggle with industries and professions devastated by eurozone crisis, pandemic crisis and other problems, whether they want more immigration, this time from Hong Kong?

“Is this new ‘pet project’ of Brussels bureaucrats?”

A third replied: “EU policy being dictated to by Brexit Britain? Good luck with this one Guy. Barnier wants to ban all immigration.”

However, some welcomed Mr Verhofstadt, with one saying: “Thank you for always #StandWithHongKong.”

For decades, the former British colony has been a strong Catholic beach-head on the edge of a mainland China under officially-atheist Communist Party rule.

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Holders of a British National Overseas (BNO) visa at “imminent risk of destitution” will be able to apply for public funds on a case-by-case basis in the UK.

To be eligible for the cash, Hong Kongers would have to submit evidence of their financial status or prove they have a child and a very low income.

Last month the UK pledged £43 million to help people arriving from Hong Kong find jobs, houses and schools under an initiative allowing millions to resettle after China’s imposition of new security laws.

The UK opened its doors to the people of Hong Kong after fierce clashes erupted over a row with Beijing over reforms on security laws.

More than five million people could arrive in the UK to start a new life.

They will be allowed to live and work in the country and eventually apply for citizenship.

On Monday Pope Francis named Stephen Chow as the new bishop of Hong Kong, a long-delayed appointment that comes amid Sino-Vatican frictions and growing Western concern over human rights in the global financial hub.

Bishop Chow, 61, head of Hong Kong’s Jesuit order, will replace Cardinal John Tong, who has held the post in a caretaker capacity following the death of the previous bishop, Michael Yeung, in January 2019.

Senior clerics in Hong Kong familiar with the situation said the new bishop must ease tensions among a flock divided between those wanting the diocese to do more to defend Hong Kong’s waning freedoms and others, including some powerful establishment figures, who want a less confrontational approach.

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