HONG KONG (AP):- After two years of turmoil and change, Hong Kong was not the same for Mike Hui. One month ago, the 36-year-old photographer pulled up roots and moved with his wife and young daughter to the U.K. to try starting anew.
“I felt that I couldn’t stay anymore, and that 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 has rounded up democracy activists and stifled dissent.
Until early April, Hui was a photojournalist for the Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper that shut down last week following the arrest of five top editors and executives and the freezing of its assets under a national security law that China’s ruling Communist Party imposed on Hong Kong as part of the crackdown.
He called the closing of the paper, where he worked for seven years, heart-aching.
“I felt that all my memories of these years, and everything that proved that I existed in this place as well as this industry, were gone. … It’s like losing a family member who was very close to you,” he said.
Hui misses family and friends but less so the city where he was born and raised. “I don’t have strong feelings about this place after it’s been ruined in the past two years,” he said.
He pointed to a July 2019 attack on people in a subway station by a mob apparently opposed to the then-ongoing protests. It came amid tensions between police and supporters of the protesters, and many, including Hui, were disappointed by how police handled the attack in Yuen Long.
The rollout of the national security law a year later was a catalyst for his decision to leave, he said.
The adjustment to life in Leeds, a city in northern England, has perhaps been easiest for his 5-year-old daughter. Before leaving, Hui told her that their new home was a place where people of different skin colors and races lived, just like in the Disney movie “Frozen.”
She has been enjoying the spacious parks, huge warehouse-like toy stores and a larger bedroom than in densely packed Hong Kong. “After all she’s still young, and she doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said.
Despite more than 10 years in media, Hui has no plans to pick up the job again in the U.K., at least not full-time. He doesn’t 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.”