The Hong Kong migrants fleeing to start new lives in the UK


The UK will introduce a new visa at the end of January that will give 5.4 million Hong Kong residents – a staggering 70% of the territory’s population – the right to come and live in the UK, and eventually become citizens.

It is making this “generous” offer to residents of its former colony because it believes China is undermining Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms.

Not everyone will come. Some of those eligible to leave have expressed their determination to stay and continue the fight for democracy.

In the end, Britain estimates that about 300,000 will take up the visa offer over the next five years.

But some are so keen to leave that they are already in the UK, including Andy Li and his wife Teri Wong.

The couple moved to the city of York with their daughter Gudelia and son Paul in October, shortly after Britain announced it was planning to launch the new visa scheme.

They made the move primarily for their children.

“We feel that the things we treasure about Hong Kong – our core values – are fading over time,” said Mr Li.

“So we decided we needed to provide a better opportunity for our children, not only for their education, but also for their futures.”

For Mr Li, Britain provides the kind of society – the rule of law, freedom of speech, democratic elections – that he longed for in Hong Kong.

Mrs Wong said she wanted her children to be able to say what they wanted at school, not like in Hong Kong, where they had to be careful. “That’s not the life we want them to have,” she said.

Britain has allowed Hong Kong residents like Mr Li and his family to move to the UK even before the new visa comes into force.

But from 31 January, they can begin the process of applying for citizenship, which will take six years.

In the meantime, they will have to fund themselves, although they will be able to get healthcare and have their children educated.

Gudelia, who is 14, and Paul, 11, have already found a new school.

Mr Li continues to work remotely for a Chinese electronics company based in Shenzhen, the Chinese city just over the border from Hong Kong.

The family are excited about their new life, but others have arrived with less of a sense of starting something good as fleeing something bad.

One person who did not want to be identified came to Britain recently after taking part in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019.

“I fear for the safety and security of the friends and family who decided to stay behind,” the 23-year-old told the BBC.

“And I am afraid I will also become a target for the Hong Kong authorities because of my active participation in the protests.”

But even this person has hope for a better life: “Being granted a chance to live here is a dream come true.”