Darkus Yu was born and raised in Hong Kong. He had never thought of home for almost half a century. But events over the past year have changed his mind.
Al Jazeera documented the last four months of the Yu family in Hong Kong. Her story was a poignant perspective on why a family decided to move to a country where they don’t speak the language and have few friends or job prospects instead of staying in Hong Kong.
The publication of this story was delayed upon request.
‘I love this place’
The ongoing crackdown on political disagreements and the overhaul of the education system since China introduced a comprehensive national security law in late June 2020 ultimately forced him to make a life-changing decision.
“Hong Kong is a place where I grew up. I love this place. But the government destroyed this city … like the history and education system. This city has been torn to pieces and is no longer recognizable, ”said Yu.
The Yus were a typical middle-class family in Hong Kong. Yu and his wife, Esther Law, lived in their own apartment and had stable jobs with decent incomes as an animator and executive assistant.
But for the sake of their six-year-old twins, Grace and Jayden, the couple decided to sacrifice everything they had in Hong Kong and immigrate to Birmingham, UK, in hopes of a better life in a country neither of them had ever been to .
“We won’t leave Hong Kong if we don’t have children,” said Yu. “I am now not confident with the education system in Hong Kong. Patriotic upbringing is synonymous with brainwashing. “
The Yus were unsettled about the Education Bureau’s decision in October 2020 to disqualify a teacher accused of promoting Hong Kong’s independence.
The Hong Kong government then announced controversial changes and renamed the subject of Liberal Studies, which it blamed for sparking the 2019 protests, to “Citizens and Social Development”. In addition, children from the age of six receive lessons in “national security” and are supposed to sing China’s national anthem.
“It is torture to stay in Hong Kong”
“Since the introduction of the national security law, the political situation here has deteriorated rapidly. We are worried about the future of Hong Kong, including the future of my twins. We want to leave as soon as possible, ”said Yu Al Jazeera before the move.
The couple had to weigh a lot: the costs, the education system, language issues and the paperwork of entering the UK, which now offers up to three million people in Hong Kong the opportunity to move to the UK and eventually secure citizenship.
In the meantime, the government has continued its political approach.
Pro-democracy lawmakers and activists have been arrested and prosecuted. Many opposition activists – including veteran opposition lawmaker Martin Lee and media magnate Jimmy Lai – have been tried. Beijing also announced an overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system, which will screen all candidates to ensure that only “patriots” can rule the city.
For Yu, the developments only served to confirm his family’s decision to leave … and soon. They have brought their departure forward to mid-March 2021.
“It’s a torture to stay in Hong Kong these days if you don’t support the government. I have no choice but to leave because events here are daunting. We’re being pushed to the edge of the cliff and there’s no going back, ”he said.
Yu said he wouldn’t miss Hong Kong. There was nothing left that made her stay. This city was no longer their home.