Thousands of people from Hong Kong have moved to the UK in the past year. Many have fled tensions with Chinese authorities there – others say they are attracted by a slower pace of life. The BBC has been speaking to some new arrivals about life in the UK.
Yowin Mo, Eddie Wong and their nine-year-old daughter Hayley swapped their high-rise flat in Hong Kong for a two-bed semi in Crewe, in the north-west of England. They didn’t know anyone here and had never visited the UK before they moved, but so far they’ve had a good impression. “Most British people are polite and laid-back,” says Yowin.
It wasn’t an easy decision for the trio to leave their friends, family and jobs behind. “My dad cried, he didn’t want to leave,” remembers Hayley. She wasn’t sure about the move either, but getting a puppy helped her settle in.
In Hong Kong, Yowin’s marketing job was very demanding and she worked long hours. Eddie was a photojournalist. Now they’ve given up their hectic lives in a bustling world city to move to a small town with lower house prices and good schools.
“We don’t expect to be rich,” Yowin says. “We are just hoping to have a simple life here, and hopefully Hayley can grow up happy.”
Yowin and Eddie felt leaving Hong Kong was in Hayley’s best interests. She has happily settled into the local primary school, where 11 other Hong Kong children have since joined.
Yowin says going to school in Hong Kong was far more stressful – there was no playground to run around in and Hayley had homework to do until 19:00 every night.
But her main concern was that if her daughter had stayed in Hong Kong she would be “brainwashed”. Yowin says Hong Kong’s education system has changed drastically because children are now being taught the Chinese state-approved curriculum. She also fears the phasing-out of the speaking of Cantonese in schools, and that Hayley would be taught in Mandarin Chinese. “That’s one of the reasons I don’t want to stay in Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong government denies claims of brainwashing and says its education system has consistently developed generations of talents. It also says students are taught Cantonese, Chinese Mandarin, and English.
Another of Yowin’s concerns is censorship. She believes Hayley wouldn’t get the “true news” on TV. “Maybe only fake news, you know? In Hong Kong, she might not be able to say whatever she wants.”
On a high shelf, out of Hayley’s reach, Yowin keeps a book of photographs of the 2019 protests called Defiance, including several showing violent clashes between protesters and police. When Hayley is a bit older, Yowin hopes the photos will help explain why they felt they had to leave.
“When two million people are marching on the street and the government still ignores these voices, you will find the city is hopeless,” says Yowin. “Every time I talk about it, I cry.”