Story for Al Jazeera English:

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Since China imposed its sweeping National Security Law on Hong Kong in July 2020, emigration has become a hotly discussed topic among Hong Kong people. The city is expected to experience another wave of emigration, like the massive exodus before 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China. The most sought-after countries are Britain, Canada, Australia and Taiwan, which have either eased the immigration rules or introduced new visa schemes tailored for Hong Kong residents. The British government estimates that 322,000 of Hongkongers are planning to emigrate to Britain in the coming five years. The Yu’s family is one of them.

Another Hong Kong family is going.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Darkus Yu had never considered leaving Hong Kong – a city he regarded as home for almost half a century. However, the continuing crackdown on political dissent and the overhaul of the education system – with its focus on patriotism – finally forced him to make this life-changing decision. He says the city he loves has been torn into pieces and is no longer recognizable. For the sake of his 6-year-old twins Grace and Jayden, he and his wife Esther have decided to emigrate to Birmingham, hoping for a better life in a country none of them has ever been to.

The twins were born in 2014, another tempestuous period in Hong Kong’s history. That was the year the Umbrella Movement was born, when tens of thousands of people – mostly students – peacefully occupied the centre of Hong Kong to demand more political reform. In 2014 the idea that Darkus would one day leave Hong Kong seemed unthinkable, he still believed that Hong Kong was a fair and just city.

Without perhaps realising it, the Yu’s are about to become refugees swapping “ Asia’s World City” for Birmingham, an industrial city in Britain’s west midlands….where job opportunities for newcomers not speaking much English are few. Darkus knows he will not find the same work or level of pay in Britain. Imbued with a strong work ethic though, he says he is prepared to do almost any type of work, no matter how menial. But that uncertain future offers them more hope than today’s Hong Kong.

There was a lot to weigh up: the cost, the education system, language problems, and the paperwork to enter Britain. Meanwhile, the government continued its crackdown in their last few months in Hong Kong. In numerous police dawn raids dissidents, pro-democracy legislators and activists were rounded up. Many of the lawmakers had already been disqualified. Other opposition figures – including veteran opposition legislators and media tycoons – went on trial. Many other opposition figures fled into exile. These chilling developments vindicated the Yu’s decision to go, as he found that the events here are disheartening. Darkus said he will not miss HK. There is nothing that can make them stay in this place anymore.

This city is no longer their home.

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