Tens of hundreds of Hong Kongers have utilized for a particular visa supplied by the British authorities to come back and reside within the UK after China cracked down on democracy within the metropolis.
Sky Information has adopted one household who has taken up that supply and relocated from their much-loved house for a lifetime of freedom in Liverpool.
Donna Kong has lived in Hong Kong her complete life.
“I graduated proper after Hong Kong’s handover,” she informed Sky Information.
“These days, we now have to watch out what we are saying on the streets.”
Her husband Fei Wan agrees.
“Not simply on the road, however even on-line, we now have to censor ourselves.
“Hong Kong goes from a free, worldwide metropolis to simply one other Chinese language metropolis.”
Neither considers themselves “political” individuals however the 2019 protests – and the calls for for larger democracy and the safety of the freedoms that had been promised by China – had been a turning level.
“I went to some peaceable protest marches,” Donna mentioned.
“On the time, we questioned if the federal government will take heed to our voices. Then later we discovered it was ineffective, so we felt powerless. Now, we see there’s a sequence of political reprisals.”
“We had a glimmer of hope,” Fei mentioned. “To see whether or not the federal government will make modifications once we categorical our views peacefully.
“We do not assist Hong Kong independence. We wish to have higher livelihood insurance policies, to make this a extra habitable atmosphere.
“However ultimately, we had been disenchanted. And that accelerated my want to depart Hong Kong.”
In summer season final 12 months, because the pandemic raged, Beijing imposed a sweeping Nationwide Safety Regulation on Hong Kong, which criminalised the “subversion” of state energy, amongst different offences.
A minimum of 100 individuals have been arrested below it to this point, together with Jimmy Lai, the proprietor of the unbiased Apple Every day newspaper, and Joshua Wong, one of many area’s most distinguished democracy advocates.
The utmost sentence below the regulation is life in jail.
In response, the British authorities made a suggestion to thousands and thousands of Hong Kong residents. It created a new visa scheme for British Nationwide (Abroad) (BNO) passport holders – a standing open to anybody born in Hong Kong earlier than the handover in 1997.
Some 34,300 individuals utilized for a visa in February and March alone, in line with the Dwelling Workplace.
Fei and Donna had been amongst them.
“The BNO visa scheme exhibits an acceptance for Hongkongers,” Donna mentioned.
Donna’s youthful brother, Felix, goes with them. He had a front-row seat on the 2019 protests, as a author for Apple Every day.
“Now it is clear that the lit fuse is true subsequent to me, so I made a decision to depart,” he mentioned.
“I am nervous. Too many issues are taking place day-after-day. I do not know what may occur to me on this journey.”
Fei, Donna and Felix are swapping a tropical megacity for a really totally different location: Liverpool.
Fei and Donna have a buddy who moved there a number of months in the past. “He mentioned Liverpool was appropriate for us,” Donna mentioned.
“It is quieter,” mentioned Fei.
However it’s a wrench to say goodbye to their pals, their household, their house, for an unsure future on the opposite aspect of the world.
Donna mentioned: “Because the date of departure will get nearer, once I meet my pals, they are saying, it is the final time we’re assembly in Hong Kong. We cannot be capable to see one another quickly.”
Fei mentioned he nonetheless feels “unhealthy about [Hong Kong’s political developments] as a result of I’ve lived right here so lengthy”.
“Though I am leaving quickly, my pals and relations are right here. I would like issues to work out for them.”
“I can solely say, add oil,” Fei mentioned, invoking one of many slogans of the 2019 protests, which implies “maintain going”.
“It is like ready for the daybreak, it is robust. I do not know if we’ll see the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel.”
Donna sighed: “It is a lengthy wait.”
In March, Fei, Donna and Felix went to the airport. They mentioned a tearful farewell to pals and boarded their aircraft.
At Heathrow, they swapped quick sleeves for thermal jackets.
“I felt actually unhappy,” Fei mentioned. “Our households got here to the airport and we had been actually unhappy to depart.”
Two weeks later, they had been settling into Liverpool. Fei was searching for a job as a bus driver, his outdated career in Hong Kong – to this point with out success.
However there are not any regrets and so they say they’ve felt welcomed to this point.
“We go to the submit workplace, and the grocery store, all of the individuals inside are so good and prepared to assist,” Donna mentioned.
“So I believe residing right here, and never there [in Hong Kong], is an efficient factor.”
Fei agrees: “The UK has extra freedom than Hong Kong now. And we now have no should be afraid of what we are saying, what we do.”
For Felix, the burden that has been lifted is even larger. “We might be a lot safer if we keep within the UK,” he mentioned.
“In Hong Kong, I am unable to even sleep as a result of typically chances are you’ll want to fret that the police will come to your home within the early morning.
“I really feel that the UK authorities is attempting to guard individuals coming from Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong visa scheme already represents an unprecedented wave of immigration from a single place.
Tens of hundreds are making the identical journey. However every household has its personal story, every taking their very own tentative steps in a brand new nation and a brand new life.
For Fei and Donna, it is just the beginning. However it’s a promising one.
“Do you want Liverpool?” Fei asks Donna.
“Sure,” she mentioned.
“Good! I hope we selected a spot you want.”