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Since 2021, over 180,000 Hong Kongers have immigrated to Britain under a special visa program in response to political crackdowns in their home country. Unlike many immigrants, Hong Kongers arrive in Britain with the right to vote, giving them the opportunity to participate in the democratic process. However, some Hong Kong immigrants remain concerned about Chinese influence and potential repercussions for their families. For individuals like Richard Wong, who moved to Britain from Hong Kong two years ago, taking part in a free election feels strange as he once fought for democracy in his home country, only to see it lost. Wong has been volunteering for an opposition Labour party candidate in the upcoming UK general election while his friends back in Hong Kong face imprisonment.

China says the crackdown in Hong Kong was necessary to restore stability following violent protests in 2019. When Britain left Hong Kong, it offered a limited form of British nationality to residents, allowing Hong Kong immigrants to have the right to vote in the UK. The upcoming British national election is the first opportunity for these Hong Kongers to participate in the democratic process in their adopted home. Many are passionate about the opportunity to vote, recognizing the power it holds. Carmen Lau, a campaign coordinator for Vote for Hong Kong 2024, was elected a Hong Kong district councillor in 2019 before moving to Britain. She was later disqualified for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the territory’s mini constitution.

With relations between Britain and China strained, some Hong Kong immigrants in the UK are still fearful of China’s reach. At cultural events, attendees often wear masks and avoid cameras out of fear that their families in Hong Kong will be harassed. One Hong Konger in the UK, Kate, expressed concerns about China’s control and spies, emphasizing the need to speak out and protect the right to vote. The sense of fear and uncertainty among some Hong Kong immigrants highlights the ongoing challenges they face, even after relocating to Britain. Despite these concerns, many continue to engage in political activism and advocacy to protect their rights and uphold democratic values.

The influx of Hong Kong immigrants to Britain has brought an added layer of complexity to the political landscape, as these individuals bring with them a unique perspective and experience from their homeland. The rapid growth of this community underscores the importance of understanding and addressing their distinct needs and challenges. Additionally, the involvement of Hong Kongers in the UK political process serves as a reminder of the shared values of democracy and freedom that bind these two nations. By participating in elections and exercising their right to vote, Hong Kong immigrants in Britain are making their voices heard and contributing to the diversity and inclusivity of the democratic process.

Overall, the experience of Hong Kong immigrants in Britain reflects a complex blend of political activism, fear, and hope as they navigate a new reality far from home. The opportunity to participate in the democratic process in the UK has provided a sense of empowerment and agency for many Hong Kongers, allowing them to continue their fight for democracy in their adopted country. Despite the challenges and uncertainties they face, these individuals remain resilient and committed to upholding the values of freedom and democracy that are at the heart of their struggle. As the political landscape continues to evolve, the presence of Hong Kong immigrants in Britain serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring spirit of resistance and determination in the face of adversity.

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