Briton in Wuhan refuses to board flight to UK as daughter may be left behind

Chris Hill and his daughter Renee Credit: Family Handout/PA

A British man in Wuhan said it was "disgraceful" the UK government have said they are keeping in touch with nationals stuck in China, after having no contact with Foreign Office officials.

Chris Hill, 38, chose not to board the flight back to the UK after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) could not say if four-year-old Renee would be allowed on board because she is a Chinese national.

The flight left Wuhan city at 7am local time on Friday, 11pm on Thursday UK time.

Mr Hill told ITV News: "The fact that they've said they'd keep in contact with us, which hasn't been the case.

"It really is truly disgraceful that they are saying to the press and the people 'oh yes, don't worry, we're keeping in touch with our citizens in this area', and it's not happening.

"It's worse than a joke."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said officials had “been working tirelessly” to get citizens out of Wuhan, and the PA news agency understands that the FCO is trying to ensure families can remain together and relatives with dual citizenship are allowed on the flight.

However, the Chinese government does not recognise dual nationality, and it is thought that people with Chinese citizenship are unable to leave the affected area.

Mr Hill lives in Wuhan with his wife Caitlyn Gao and their daughter, who are both Chinese nationals.

Caitlyn Gao with her four-year-old daughter Renee Gao. Credit: Family Handout/PA

He told PA: “When [the FCO] called me they said they would not be able to say if my family could go with me or not.

“I said ‘Oh OK so you cannot confirm in any way that they could travel with me’, and they said ‘We’re trying our best but we can’t guarantee anything,’ so I said ‘No, I’m not going’.

“The whole point of saying you can go to the airport and try is like going well, it may happen, it may not. So it means if you take your family to the airport, and then they turn around and say no, what would happen?

“With the current situation and the way the FCO is handling the diplomatic side of things, I’m just losing faith.”

In an email letter to those boarding the flight, the Foreign Office said they should go to Tianhe Airport Expressway Toll Gate by no later than 1am local time on Friday, after previously advising passengers they would have to arrive by 11pm local time on Thursday.

Mr Hill criticised the ‘bad planning’ of the British Government when organising the evacuation flight. Credit: Family Handout/PA

Mr Hill, originally from Washington, Sunderland, told PA he could not consider leaving his family and said his wife of 11 years could not travel as she was needed to work in a hospital in Wuhan.

He added that Renee had some understanding of the situation and did not want her father to leave.

“She knows that people are ill, and she knows not to spend time around many people, but I did ask her, if Daddy had to go back home and you had to stay here would you want me to go, and she said no,” he added.

Mr Hill said he refused to go to the airport without a definite answer about whether he could bring Renee to the UK. Credit: Family Handout/PA

Mr Hill criticised the planning of the repatriation flight as he was told to be at the airport just minutes before the original deadline imposed by the FCO.

He said: “I actually got an email from the FCO about the flight as well, they said that you have to be at the meeting point by 11pm but I received the email at seven minutes to 11.

“There’s no cars, there’s no taxis, anything, and the FCO say, ‘Oh we’ll pick you up from Wuhan Tianhe airport but you have to make your own way there’. That gives me a very bad taste in my mouth.

“It’s just bad planning.”

It is thought around 150 UK citizens will be on the flight from Wuhan which will land at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Friday morning.