So Long Hong Kong, So Long: Photographs of the mass migration of 2020 and 2021

When Britain handed back control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the agreement was based on the principle of "one country, two systems". However, since the street protests of 2019, the Chinese government has clamped down hard on Hong Kong's freedoms, eroding its political autonomy, closing down newspapers, and jailing politicians and reporters who question the party line.

As a result, many residents have voted with their feet. "Since January 2021, there's been a minimum of three flights every day, fully loaded with Hongkongers, leaving for the UK," explains photographer and filmmaker Chung-Wai Wong. "It is expected that 250,000 to 320,000 Hong Kong residents will immigrate to the UK in the next five years."

This dramatic population shift is the theme of his photo series, 'So Long Hong Kong, So Long'. These images were all taken during the time of dramatic change in Hong Kong from 2020 to 2021.

"This is no longer the city I once knew," says Chung-Wai, who graduated in digital visual design and worked in the movie industry for over ten years. "This mass migration wave is a consequence of the anti-government protests in 2019 and the increasing threat from the mainland Chinese government. In the minds of these people, they are leaving Hong Kong permanently, with the risk of never being able to go back. I was one of the people on those planes. I left the city that I'd loved my whole life, with feelings of perplexity and depression from leaving my family, friends, and career behind."

He initially saw the project as a farewell letter to Hong Kong and the first half of his life. "But as I continued developing this body of works, I kept asking myself questions. What made me follow in my parents' footsteps 40 years ago to escape from socialist China again? What was the force behind all these changes, pushing people away from their homelands? I realised this work is more than personal; it is also a conversation about the complexity of HongKongers' identity and cultural roots."

In publishing these images, Chung-Wai wishes to share these thoughts with the world, including the Hongkongers themselves and those who care about them. "By displaying the sense of change in Hong Kong, in terms of time and emotions, these images show the atmosphere after the failure of the democratic movement in 2019," he says. "An undeniable sense of complexity, powerlessness, uncertainty, fate, hesitation, and the loss of hope."

However, he notes that the series only tells "the first half of the whole story", though. "So what is next? What is the second half of this story? Do those people who have left found their homeland, their promised land, on this another side of the world? What if they haven't? What if they've failed?"


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