A place with freedom across the oceans
Just as every person will have their own dreams and hope for Hong Kong, so too do people's experience here in the SAR differ. It's possible to make generalisations, of course. We cannot ignore the fact that many people have either already chosen to leave the SAR, or are in the midst of such a major decision with all their emotions and thoughts swirling due to the current global pandemic. Like many of our readers we too long for happiness and freedom from despair, frustration, worry, pain and angst.
WTPOHK respect individual rights, moreso than our current government, and applaud the subject of the following writing that was willing to share his story.
Originally published as a feature in Apple Daily, 26 December 2020:
Ricky: Crossing oceans to find a place with freedom |
We Are HKers
Ricky, 31 years old, is an accounting clerk. For freedom, he is willing to leave his home in Hong Kong. As part of the first cohort of the United Kingdom’s “Leave outside the Immigration Rules” (LOTR) program, he hopes to offer help from afar to those who feel trapped. He was diagnosed with depression a few years ago and spent a long time in treatment. He now wants to raise public awareness for mood disorders.
The day the Hong Kong national security law took effect, it felt like an assault on civil liberties. To me, these freedoms are incredibly important, especially the right to express my opinions freely. Because of the legislation, Hong Kong no longer feels like home. A few years ago, I was already considering the idea of emigrating to the UK because of the many stresses of living in Hong Kong. I was then diagnosed with major depressive disorder which made me want a change in environment. The escalating situation in Hong Kong accelerated my decision to leave.
My name is Ricky. Before leaving Hong Kong, I worked at a food and beverage corporation as an accounting clerk. I think depression has always been a part of me since birth, but I’ve only been clinically diagnosed in the past few years. I remember getting into an argument with my father at home. It then escalated to physical threats with a meat cleaver that I had to contact the police for help. I was diagnosed with depression two months after the incident.
Living with depression
Only recently have I been able to recall the story in a relatively composed manner, mainly because all the stressors have been left behind. I’m all by myself now. My parents, however, still believe in the old Chinese feudal traditions that the family needs to be together in whole and well presented. I have an opposing opinion in that it’s better we live our separate lives. I can’t deny that there are unresolved issues between my parents and I. I’m not sure how long it’ll take for the wounds to heal, but I like to think that the people around me would also like to see my recovery. However, some family members have unrealistic expectations.
Depression is a difficult disease to treat. Because of the stigma and common misunderstanding of the disease, support for depression is limited in Hong Kong. Academic books are available, but they are mostly theory and not accessible to laypeople. Books written by those with depression also exist, but each person’s relationship with depression is unique, so experiences can’t be generalized. Just reading books is not enough to fully understand depression though. The government needs to play a part in raising awareness and education about depression. If I had the opportunity, I would love to help spread the correct message about depression, like what kind of disease it is, how to become more aware of it, how to interact with patients, etc.
Like many other patients, when I enter a depressive episode, I become withdrawn from the world. One of the primary symptoms is the loss of motivation to do anything. Interacting with people takes a lot of effort. During the episode, suicidal thoughts repeatedly run through my head, but luckily I lack the motivation to follow through. During my most severe episode, I was taken into the emergency room. At that time, I was very frightened and couldn’t function at all.
In my most lonely and helpless moments, I came across a Facebook livestream and met a like-minded individual and I started sharing my experiences with him online. At that time because I was taking medication, my mood swung wildly. Whenever I cried, I’d find him for emotional support and he helped me through it all. I’m still very grateful for all his help. After all these years, from medication and therapy to finding someone to talk to are all important milestones in my journey to recovery.
Although I’ve emigrated to the UK, my depression didn’t miraculously disappear. I’ve been able to avoid my triggers and cope with my condition, but only time will tell if I can make it through the UK winters uneventfully.
In search of a new home
Although I’ve had to travel thousands of kilometers away, I don’t feel homesick. As we Hongkongers have lost the freedoms we rightfully deserve from birth, I couldn’t help but leave. All I can do now is to just look forward and try to help other Hongkongers from the outside.
On the day that I arrived in the UK, I told the border agent that I intended to stay. I waited patiently to the side for the next step as a few other Hongkongers joined me. The officer collected my fingerprints and photos, then finally stamped my documents. The examination process is already incredibly simplified, so my only criticism is that those born after 1997—ineligible for the British national (overseas) passport—cannot benefit from this. As one of the first LOTR immigrants, I hope sharing my personal experience can help others make informed decisions and reduce their fear of uncertainty. In the UK, I’ve met other Hongkongers who want to do their part to help protesters by closely following the policies of the British government.
When parliament returns to work in September, there might be new proposed changes from the Home Office. I think Hongkongers don’t need to be overly reactive to every step in the legislative process because there will be rounds of debate. The proposed bills are subject to change until it becomes the law, so I would recommend using official documents from the UK Home Office as a source of truth. Fake news is coming from everywhere nowadays, ranging from CCP loyalists to the opportunistic, grifting immigration lawyers. We can’t take things at face value and must rely on our analytical skills to disseminate the truth from falsehoods.
After I arrived in the UK, I wanted to get into the fashion business. The UK’s geographic location and proximity to neighbouring European countries is attractive for expanding a business in this industry globally. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, I haven’t been able to pursue my venture.
I’ve recently started to adjust to the working pace in the UK, to take things relatively slower. In contrast to Hong Kong’s attitude of “driving yourself into the ground,” I found the British people carry more of a “no big deal, work hard play hard” approach. Hongkongers are very used to nightlife, but there isn’t as much in the UK, so adjusting to that might be difficult. Except for bars, there aren’t many options for entertainment. Shops also close earlier in comparison. Don’t expect to find the same amenities available in Hong Kong elsewhere as it’s a different place after all. Instead, try to get familiar with the local culture. For example, people in the UK are very courteous where greeting neighbours is the norm. In Hong Kong, some might think it’s too much, but in the UK it makes people feel more comfortable, respected, and cultured. Another thing is to understand a bit of the mechanics of British humour, like irony and sarcasm, since Hongkongers might not understand it.
I think Hongkongers who are considering emigrating to the UK don’t have to choose a city with an existing Hongkonger population as they should integrate into the local way of life. Although connecting with other Hongkongers and helping each other is important, if even after moving to another country, it becomes all about Hongkongers banding together, causing locals to adapt to us, it will only lead to spite and antipathy. Currently, the British still have a positive opinion of Hongkongers, but this can change. Although Britain should be morally responsible due to historical considerations, the epidemic has already made it difficult for British people to find employment. If Hongkongers habitually speculate on local real estate after arrival, this will make the British people change their minds towards saving Hongkongers.
I think the only way to free Hong Kong is from the outside as it’s too dangerous from within.
After getting adjusted to living here, I hope I can set an example to convince other Hongkongers to emigrate and avoid getting trapped in Hong Kong as the situation escalates to a point of no return.
I am Ricky. I am a HKer.
About “We Are HKers”
We Are HKers is a bilingual platform built by a group of Hong Kong volunteers living in different parts of the world. We aim to share a multi-dimensional perspective of the individual voices of HKers to people around the globe and let them see the attributes and values embraced by HKers.
Visit www.wearehkers.com and follow our social media @hkersweare for inspiring HKers’ stories, unique culture and delicious recipes of HK food.
Contributors: Tea Leaf, FloraA, Sam Bridges, Gustoefur, Zucchhi @ We Are HKers