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Families are torn apart by different thoughts on leaving Hong Kong.

Kossy Chen

Cherry Wong’s parents have decided to leave Hong Kong for Britain, but she and her elder brother have decided to stay for better job opportunities. 

“I want to be a journalist in Hong Kong because I love to report stories about Hong Kong and Hongkongers. If I go to the UK, I cannot do that,” the journalism major student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) says.

Cherry Wong’s parents packed their luggage for advance delivery to Britain in March. (Photo courtesy of Cherry Wong)

“I am not familiar with English culture. Also, I enjoy reporting in my native language,” the 21-year-old student adds. 

Her parents, a 60-year-old retired lecturer and a 53-year-old housewife, are angry about China’s tightening grip on Hong Kong and the introduction of the national security law in June 2020.

“I am also upset about the recent development in Hong Kong, but I want to stay in Hong Kong. I want to work in Hong Kong and hang out with my friends. This is what I want for my future,” she says.

Employment Difficulties in the UK

The British National (Overseas) visa program was launched in January 2021 to grant Hongkongers the right to live, work and study in the UK. About 103,900 Hongkongers applied last year, according to the UK’s Home Office figures.

Nearly 50 per cent of Hongkongers who moved to the UK were jobless, according to a survey conducted by Hongkongers in Britain (HKB), a Hong Kong immigrant support group that interviewed 609 respondents in a survey in August 2021.

Language barrier, a lack of relevant skills or qualifications, and issues with proving their right to work were obstacles faced by Hongkongers when searching for jobs in the UK, according to the results of the survey.

Stay for better job opportunities

Bridget Cheung Laam, a Year Four student studying Information Engineering, also shares Wong’s worries in finding jobs abroad. 

“My sisters aged 17 and 22, and I want to stay in Hong Kong for a few more years before moving to the UK. But our mother is urging us to make a move this year. She is worried that the British government might change the policy later,” Cheung sighs.

“But it is easier for me to find jobs in Hong Kong compared to the UK. The UK tech industry is still emerging so manpower demand is lower. As a new immigrant, it will be harder for me to find a job,” she says.

Cheung also thinks the lifestyle in Hong Kong is more appealing.  

“Hong Kong is a lively city. I lost my cell phone about ten times a year but I could get it back every time. Hongkongers are really helpful and well-mannered. Though Hong Kong has undergone many changes recently, I still have hope in Hong Kong,” she says.  

She does not want to leave Hong Kong because her father and grandparents have decided to stay in the city. 

“My dad wants to stay in Hong Kong. My parents had a divorce 10 years ago because of their personalities and political stands. My grandparents also choose to stay in Hong Kong,” she says.

Chueng Lam posed with her grandparents in her graduation gown. (Photo courtesy of Chueng Lam)

Stay for Hong Kong Lifestyle

Like Wong and Leung, architecture major graduate Grace Lee also wants to work in Hong Kong where she has more job opportunities, but her parents are determined to leave Hong Kong for the UK. 

“When my parents told me about their decision, I was totally unprepared and lost the direction of my life,” Lee says.

Lee’s parents sold their property to fund their move to Britain in June 2021, leaving Lee and her elder sister in Hong Kong. The sisters now stay in a rented flat in Yuen Long. 

“My sister and I want to gain some working experiences in Hong Kong first. If we go to the UK now, it will be difficult for us to search for a job. We are fresh graduates with no working experience,” the 22-year-old teaching assistant says.

“My professor can be my referee when I look for jobs in the architecture field in Hong Kong. I want to be financially independent in Hong Kong first. Then I will think about moving to another country,” she says. 

Grace Lee (holding iPad in the photo) chatted with families overseas. (Photo courtesy of Grace Lee)

She also loves the weather, environment, and lifestyle of Hong Kong. 

“I do not like the weather in England. It rains all the time. Hiking and surfing are my favourite sports. There are so many hills and islands to explore in the city. I also can go to country parks and return to the city centre in just one day in Hong Kong,” she says.

“In fact, I do not mind emigrating because I love challenges. But I want to live in a city that I like. I do not want to follow my parents blindly,” Lee says.

Separation as a solution

A professional consultant from the Social Work Department at CUHK, Lau Yuk-king, observes Hong Kong young people are not keen about leaving the city. 

“Most of the young adults worry about their competitiveness as newcomers in the job market in the host countries. If they cannot secure jobs, they cannot have a bright future after emigration,” Lau says.

“There is no need to insist that the whole family should emigrate as people can stay in touch online easily. Each family member should have the right to determine how they live,” she says.

She reminds those who are planning to emigrate to learn about the host country’s working culture.

“The class differentials among different occupations are less serious in some countries compared with Hong Kong. For example, cleaners and train drivers are highly paid and well-respected in some countries,” she says.

Edited by Angel Woo
Sub-edited by Winkie Ng