HONG KONG (AP) – After two years of upheaval and change, Hong Kong was not the same for Mike Hui. A month ago, the 36-year-old photographer took his roots and moved with his wife and young daughter to the UK to try and start from scratch.
“I felt I couldn’t stay anymore and I couldn’t let my next generation grow up in a society like this,” he said.
His departure came after anti-government protests divided the city in 2019 and a subsequent crackdown that brought together democracy activists and stifled dissent.
Until early April, Hui was a photojournalist for the Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper that closed last week after the arrest of five editors and senior executives and the freezing of his assets under of a national security law imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Hong Kong as part of the crackdown.
He called the closure of the newspaper, where he worked for seven years, with a sore heart.
“I felt like all my memories of those years, and everything that proved that I existed in this place as well as in this industry, were gone. … It’s like losing a family member who was very close to you, ”he said.
Hui is missed by his family and friends, but less so by the city where he was born and raised. “I don’t have strong feelings about this place after it has been ruined for the past two years,” he said.
He pointed to an attack on people at a metro station in July 2019 by a crowd apparently opposed to the protests then underway. This happened amid tensions between police and supporters of the protesters, and many, including Hui, were disappointed with the way the police handled the attack in Yuen Long.
The deployment of the National Security Law a year later was a catalyst for his decision to leave, he said.
Adjusting to life in Leeds, a city in the north of England, may have been easier for her 5-year-old daughter. Before leaving, Hui told him that their new home was a place where people of different skin colors and races lived, just like in the Disney movie “Frozen”.
She took advantage of spacious parks, huge warehouse-like toy stores, and a larger bedroom than in densely populated Hong Kong. “After all, she’s still young and she doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said.
Despite over 10 years in the media, Hui has no plans to return to work in the UK, at least not full time. He does not intend to resume the Hong Kong way of life either.
“Having moved here, I want to have a reborn mindset,” he said. “I want to start over and challenge myself. You have to move on from something… and try new things.