The complexity of emigration

July 29, 2021 10:13
Photo: Reuters

Do you want a detached house in West Sussex, a new apartment overlooking the sea in Liverpool or a condominium in Reading? And how about an investment vehicle to minimise payment of British income tax?

As they consider whether to emigrate to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong people are being bombarded with information about the country that may become their new home.

It comes in seminars, books, newspaper and magazine articles and podcasts from lawyers, property agents, finance specialists and ordinary people here and in Britain. If you attended them all, you would know more about property there than British people.

In the first quarter of this year, more than 34,000 Hong Kong people applied for BNO visa scheme for emigration. Last Monday was the last day for departures for LOTR (Leave Outside the Rules), which allowed temporary leave for those whose visa had not been approved.

The long queues at Chek Lap Kok airport were sad and full of pathos. Those leaving embraced and said a tearful goodbye to families and friends staying behind. Will they ever live together again? Will this emigration mean they will grow apart and will be brother and sister no longer?

A survey published early this month by UKHK, a British organisation set up to help migrants, provided the most detailed data on the exodus. It did a web survey of 1,012 people who had migrated or planned to.

It found that 63.5 per cent would go with their children, of whom nearly 60 per cent were in primary school. Only 13.2 per cent plan to take their parents with them.

Nearly 80 per cent have tertiary education and 70 per cent have family assets of 100,000 pounds (HK$1.07 million). Nearly 56 per cent said that they had not started looking for work; 42.5 per cent said they plan to start their own business in Britain. Three quarters were between 30 and 49 years old.

UKHK was founded by Krish Kandiah, with this website:, in English and Chinese. It offers help on housing, employment, health, medicine, community and neighbours.

Kandiah’s web profile says that he is Founder and CEO of Home for Good – “a charity seeking to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children by finding loving homes for children in the care system.”He is an advocate for fostering and adoption, has written several books and is ambassador for the UK aid and development charity: Tearfund.

Kandiah said his website was neutral and did not encourage or discourage people to emigrate. “We want to help those who come. Our survey was to understand their background and needs. Their average standard of English is very high but they have to adapt to a new society. Visiting the dentist, for example, may involve a communication problem. The platform will organise English lessons for Hong Kong people.”

One of the most difficult issues for potential emigrants is whether to take their parents with them.

“I encourage my two sons to emigrate,” said Leung Wai-lam, a taxi driver in his 70s. “Hong Kong is changing for the worse and we do not want our grandchildren to receive this education they are forcing on us. But my wife and I are too old and could not adapt to another country. We prefer to stay here.”

While this is a common attitude among elderly people, the reality may not be so easy, especially for those whose lives are built around their family and their grandchildren.

Wong Lei, a psychologist, said that, while many old people did not want to influence their children, they greatly suffered after they had left the city.

“For 10 years, one lady in her 70s looked after her grandchildren. After dinner with her son and his family, she would go back to her own apartment. After they emigrated, her health deteriorated. After three months, she had to go to hospital because she took too many medicines. The doctors recommended that she go to an old people’s home. ”

“Her life was that of her family. Now she has lost her role. For his part, her son is feeling guilty. For him, the pressure is that he can do nothing about it,” she said.

Mary Lee plans to emigrate next month with her mother, 60 years old. She initially planned to emigrate in June 2019 but postponed her plan, in order to prepare her mother for the move. “I will rent a home with a garden, no more than 20 minutes from a supermarket. We will take six months supply of her pills. Most important is that she knows she will not be kept in an ‘immigration prison’. If she is unhappy, she can come back to Hong Kong.”

-- Contact us at [email protected]


A Hong Kong-based writer, teacher and speaker.