One-way ticket to Britain: Hongkongers leave over Easter to build new lives abroad

Published (HKT): 2021.04.04 05:12

While Easter has always been a peak travel season, this year some Hongkongers are bidding farewell to the city they have called home.

At Heathrow Airport in London, a Hongkonger who arrived on Friday on one of the three flights to the United Kingdom said her plane was “almost full.”

“After we landed, there were more than 100 people lining up behind me, from the looks of it,” said the woman, who gave her surname as Choi. She said many seemed to be young Hongkongers and some were families like hers, seeking to make a new home in the UK.

Choi, in her 60s, said she was joining her daughter and grandchildren, who moved to the country several years ago. Her sole reason for emigrating was so she could help raise her grandchildren, she said. She did not think much about leaving Hong Kong since her family was already settled in the UK.

As a British National (Overseas) passport holder, Choi is one of 5.4 million Hongkongers who are eligible to live and work in the UK under a new visa scheme. Launched in January, the visa will eventually allow BN(O) holders and their dependents to apply for citizenship after six years. Thousands have opted for the scheme, some citing worries of a sweeping national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year.

Some Hongkongers were more emotional about their departure.

“There’s a lot I will miss. It’s easy to sound strong and determined, but in reality it’s hard to say goodbye,” a woman who gave her surname as Ng said, fighting back tears.

Ng and her family of four had decided to relocate to Britain after preparing for more than six months. “We had already been considering moving before the BN(O) visa, and the moment we got it we started planning,” Ng told Apple Daily at the London airport.

Her two young children could not help but burst into tears when they left, she recalled, saying: “They were crying louder than ever. I didn’t think they would miss so much about Hong Kong, even more than I would.”

For Jacob, Easter gave an opportunity for him to venture alone to the UK to find a place to live and a school for his one-year-old son. He planned to bring his wife and child over later this year and was confident of getting a new job, saying he was still young and could afford to be adventurous.

The big move was for the sake of the next generation, as Hong Kong’s political environment was deteriorating by the day, he said.

“Now that there’s the national security law, and changes to the electoral system, I’m worried about my child’s education,” Jacob, who preferred to use a pseudonym, told Apple Daily at the Hong Kong International Airport on Saturday.

His parents would be dearly missed, as they had decided against uprooting. “I understand that it’s harder for them to emigrate. They don’t speak the language and have different political views, and they don’t see the need to emigrate just yet,” he said.

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