ed Hui recalls the moment he announced he would flee Hong Kong for the UK. “I burst into tears when I told my loved ones I was going into exile,” he says. In the closing months of 2020, the Democratic Party politician was issued with nine charges based on “totally fake stories” for his involvement in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. One charge was for “perverting the course of justice” and carried a maximum life sentence; another offence was ludicrously labelled “administering drugs and harmful substances” for dropping a stink bomb during a meeting of the city’s Legislative Council, and carried a four-year term. He also faced the prospect of a private trial with no jury.
The Kafkaesque manner of the judiciary made him realise “there was no way to rely on this legal system for justice”. After months of sleepless nights, fearing dawn raids by armed police officers and being “stalked by intelligence agents”, he decided to leave Hong Kong, sparking the exodus of many others to the pandemic-stricken shores of Britain. Hui tells me: “There will definitely be a massive number of people arriving, and cities like London and Manchester could end up with the largest Hong Kong diasporas in the world.”
On 30 June 2020 Beijing imposed its “national security law” on embattled Hong Kong to silence the pro-democracy demonstrations. State media outlet China Daily heralded it as the only way to stop “the overreactions of those rioters and their foreign backers”. The ranks of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement have varied aims, from those who want more autonomy to those who espouse full independence from China. The national security law prohibits freedom of expression and can be crookedly manipulated to silence dissent. What exactly infringes the new law is purposely vague so that it can be widely applied. Secession from China, subverting state authority and collusion with foreign powers are its main elements, all aimed at crushing democratic sentiment in the financial hub.