Satan, England – The days were short and much colder than they knew when Eric Wong and his family set foot in London in the winter of 2020 to start a new life.
In Hong Kong, Mr. Wong was the owner of a successful milk tea business, and his wife was a school administrator. In England, like coronavirus blocking continuing the time, he played with their daughter Trinity in their apartment and worried that his English was too bad to get him a job. It was hard to be friends. And he missed the sun.
“I could not see the direction in front of me,” said 46-year-old Mr. Wong, who was the beneficiary. visa program which gives holders of British foreign passports in Hong Kong a path to citizenship. “Nothing was clear.”
A year and a half later, Mr. Wong found a basic base and did what he liked best: produce and sell Hong Kong-style milk tea – which he hopes will gain popularity in this country for tea drinkers – and brings flavor. a home for newcomers from Hong Kong who have taken advantage of the new visa program.
Britain named the program humanitarian, postcolonial responsibility after a dispersal in Hong Kong the Chinese government, saying Beijing was violating the terms of a transfer agreement in 1997 that would have left the former British colony politically intact.
From bustling cities like Birmingham in the Midlands to bustling cities like Kingston south of London, tens of thousands of people from Hong Kong have spent the last year looking for work and new homes. They settled in fast-growing communities of other people from Hong Kong, which became a comfort for many, but at the cost of leaving a city where they once hoped to grow old with their children, often forced by the sick to say goodbye to loved ones.
“You grow up in a place and you don’t know it. He is becoming a stranger, “Mr Wong said last day. reflecting on change in Hong Kong as he stirred the evaporated milk into a teapot of boiling tea. “When we think about it, we just want to cry.”
He said he was forced to leave his sick father in Hong Kong, but worries about the future of his 4-year-old daughter, after whom he named his new business in England, outweighed other worries. “People say I brought Trini to England,” he said, “but I think the opposite: Trini brought me here.”
So far the UK has mostly welcomed newcomers. This is in contrast to the conservative government efforts of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to direct some asylum seekers in Rwanda. Even the program for refugees from Ukraine mired in bureaucratic delays.
“It is expected to be a fairly characteristic migration wave because of how highly skilled it is and what contribution it can make to the knowledge economy,” said Peter William Walsh, a senior fellow at Oxford University’s Migration University. The observatory, said of those who arrived from Hong Kong.
According to government statistics released in May, 123,400 applications were submitted visa people from Hong Kong since its introduction, s 322,400 people were expected to arrive in the first five years programs.
In Satan, about 15 miles south of central London, hundreds of families from Hong Kong have passed through the same residential towers, advising friends home who are thinking about moving.
There, former firefighters from Hong Kong are driving Amazon trucks, planning their next steps. Old school friends face each other in the streets of Satan. Others attended election campaigns the day before local electionsencouraged by the novelty of being have the right to vote in England, even as the democratic process narrows in Hong Kong.
“It has changed the face of our cultural mix in Satan, and it’s wonderful,” said Hannah Miles, assistant pastor of the local church, speaking of newcomers. “We need to take this opportunity to make these people feel like family.”
While newcomers there say they felt wanted.
Before Kago Ng, a former designer, arrived in London last year with her husband and 4-year-old son Caspar, she said she cried every night, worrying they wouldn’t find a job and dislike the city. “In the UK, we were told we would be second-class citizens, but in Hong Kong we didn’t feel like first-class citizens,” she said, referring to feelings they read online and in the news.
London, Ms Ng said, was much better than she imagined. She takes a freelance job and stays home to take care of Caspar, while her husband finds a watch repair job for Rolex.
But like many others, Ms. Ng is worried about the backlash. Housing prices in the area, as elsewhere in much of the UK, rose during the pandemic, and it is difficult for children to find desired locations in one of the area’s schools, she said.
“Maybe the locals will think we’re wasting resources,” Ms. Ng said as she and Caspar played at their apartment before dinner with a hot chunk of Hong Kong’s popular meal. Her forehead frowned with worry. “Maybe they’ll hate us.”
Settling into their new life in England was not without its problems.
The arrival of all newcomers from Hong Kong fleeing repression by China has caused discord with the Chinese in Britain, who support the government in Beijing.
Pro-democracy groups from Hong Kong have staged protests in British cities, but they say Beijing supporters have regularly spoken to them online. Some Hong Kong residents are afraid to speak out about their political views and say they avoid restaurants where the menu is in Simplified Chinese, which is used on the mainland.
People from Hong Kong have a strong sense of identity that is very different from people from mainland China, said Richard Choi, leader of the Sutton community.
As part of a broad effort to help newcomers settle in, Rev. Kang Yu, a minister who immigrated from Hong Kong two decades ago, recently began a church service for people from the city. “I wanted to be there to pass by them,” she said.
This service has grown to more than 200 believers, many of whom stood on benches last Sunday, singing hymns in Cantonese. Ms. Yu said her goal was to help newcomers build trust and provide them with psychological support.
“How do you feel about your grief and loss?” she said. “You have to let go of the place you’ve called home for so many years.”
Mrs. Yu became a co-founder of a nonprofit organization an organization that connects children and parents with Cantonese-speaking therapists to help them spend their new lives. Another group offers art therapy for children to express their feelings. Among the newcomers from Hong Kong are also popular sports groups.
“It’s a strong mental strain,” said Kenneth Chu, who previously sold copiers for Xerox but is now hosting a popular men’s basketball game on Friday night. “It’s a good idea for them to have a place to rest.”
David Wong, a cellist who played alongside pro-democracy protesters on the street during demonstrations in 2014, said he liked the sense of community and support he found in Satan. He often encourages Mr. Wong, the tea-maker, to practice his English more.
“If you don’t connect with each other and help each other and don’t do things for each other – what do you do?” he said.
Two strangers became friends when they were neighbors who lived in the same residential tower.
“We feel it’s Hong Kong – the community here,” said Mr. Wong, cellist. “Wherever I am, it’s Hong Kong.”