Love in turbulent times…

wedding proposal in Singapore

A true love story

最正嘅感覺係當你望住佢嘅時候佢已經望住你。

At the beginning of 2019, admiring her beautiful eyes, John kissed his girlfriend Amber and proposed. Her tears were followed by her soft, but quite resounding “yes”. For John this was the most desired, most precious word, that he would remember for the rest of his life.

This scene took place high in the air, at the Singapore Flyer, in about 120 meters above the ground. John has arranged everything for a romantic sky-high dinner, having left all his and his girlfriend’s worries deep beneath them. It was the evening of his life, the dinner that would be the start of their new journey. Or so they thought…

Amber and John were dreaming of starting a family together, back in their home in Hong Kong. While in Singapore, actually for the last 3 months, they kind of felt homesick. The Mandarin, widely spoken in Singapore, made them wary of who Hong Kong gravitated around. The skyscrapers in Singapore however, reminded them to such an extend of their hometown, that at times they felt like not being abroad at all.

The plans

我唔需要天堂因為我已經搵到你。我唔需要夢想因為我已經擁有你。

wedding in Hong Kong
BNO and HKSAR passports and wedding rings
Different passports, though one country. Many Hongkongers hold both BN(O) and HKSAR passports.

The young couple had its own plans about their future, but one thing was certain – they would remain in Hong Kong, no matter what. The HK’s business climate was more than advantageous, the money they were earning, even at their young age, was more than enough. Curiously enough, Amber and John, although both Hongkongers to the bones, had different citizenship. John was a pride holder of British National (Overseas) passport, or best known as BN(O). Among the BN(O) community, the passport has been often referred as to the “fake British passport”, because of its similar looks with the British passport, but much more restricted rights it comes with (i.e. no right of abode in the UK, no EU recognition as EU passport, etc.). Amber was travelling on her HKSAR passport, that was giving here pretty much the same freedom to travel the world visa-free, as was the case with John’s BN(O) passport. Amber was not one of those “New Hongkongers” who could only speak Mandarin after being raised on the Mainland and have then relocated to Hong Kong by marrying a local (or through a different scheme). No, she was a real HK born and raised kid, who’s parents were often nostalgic about the “good old British times”. When Britain has handed over HK to China in 1997, Amber was still a small girl dressing up her dolls, but John has still some dizzy memories about the time before the “handover”.

Four months later

你搞咩鬼呀?

chaos on the streets of HK

And then it all began. The city of Hong Kong was not the same anymore. It all started quite innocently, but then the violence took over and the streets transformed into a battlefield. The protesters, mainly pro-western young people, clashed with the police forces furiously. Tear gas mixed with the petrol bombs that the protesters were throwing against the police forces. The airport shut down. Cars were set on fire.

The end of Hong Kong, the way we all knew it, has come. It has transformed into a divided country. Divided by values, divided by politics, divided by citizenship. Amber and John have had enough – they have decided to leave. They didn’t fancy living in a war-zone. They were thinking about kids, not about war.

And while they both had different views on the protests, they were to remain united. Love is much stronger than politics – and they both knew it.

John’s view on the protests

John was raised with those British values since he was still a young child. His grandma used to read him fairy-tales about palaces and knights in England and Scotland. She used to remember the good old “tea drinking times” and all the stories she has heard about the glorious times of the British Empire. John’s father was one of those business people who was trying his really best not to look Chinese. The way he dressed, the way he looked, the way he talked, it had to look “western”. It was just his… looks that were so darn Chinese. But he managed to disguise it by wearing these fancy glasses that made him look even more intelligent, but most importantly, less Asian.

So John was confident – the protesters were trying to escape from the disastrous Chinese influence and to preserve their British (or even American) identity they all believed they had. The violence on the streets, thought John, was only to blame on the police forces who acted way too aggressive against the peaceful protesters.

John was confident in the evil roots of everything Chinese. He frankly believed that China hasn’t done anything good for the humanity in those 3000 years of history. John believed that modern China is the root of all evil and that its huge population will soon infect the rest of the world.

Amber had another view on the ongoing protests

Amber, although still very young, thought otherwise. She couldn’t comprehend the violence of the protesters. To her, these were riots and she couldn’t understand why is the police so merciful. She has heard some of her friends being offered (and some having accepted) thousands of HK$ to participate in the protests. Her friends have told her about offers for HDK 1000 for an assault against police officer, and even HKD 100 for throwing a brick. She didn’t believe it at first, but then she started thinking harder. She has heard that NED is acting like a branch of CIA and she has seen with her own eyes may “whites” to be among the protesters, giving them instructions how to act.

HK protesters with USA flag

Amber couldn’t understand how it is possible for Carrie Lam to just sits in her seat and to do nothing. But Amber was too young for politics.

And still she couldn’t understand those young fellow Hongkongers who were wrapping their bodies in the UK and USA flags. Wasn’t the UK that treated the white convicts in Australia much better than the British nationals in Hong Kong (of Chinese race)? Wasn’t the UK that didn’t give the right of abode in the UK to the people of HK?

Amber didn’t like John’s father in fact. To her he was a man without true identity. He thought himself of being British, but hasn’t he seen himself in the mirror… He was yet another “Michael Jackson” who, so she believes, is ashamed of his skin color, and has transformed himself into a monster… How can he feel British if at Heathrow airport he is treated just like another bloody unwanted immigrant.

Amber believed herself to be Hongkonger in first place. She knew she is Chinese and she was proud of that. And she was also a very beautiful Chinese lady, who was hopefully soon to become a mother.

To escape from Hong Kong

Amber and John’s decision to leave had to materialize somehow. Their first three choices were USA, UK or Taiwan. Amber’s family were strongly united in favor of Taiwan as a country so close to HK. Same language, same people, and even so close geographically. But John and his family wanted the West – USA or UK. At all cost.

After consulting leading immigration lawyer in HK however, it was made clear that there are no feasible options to immigrate legally to neither the UK nor the USA. The American EB-5 program has been made unbearably expensive earlier this year. Even worse, the UK authorities seem to grant right of residency (or even full citizenship) predominantly to Russian oligarchs and Chinese ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Normal Hongkongers are not on the “list of interest” of the main Western powers.

It is then when the young couple has found about the Bulgarian Citizenship by Investment program. No, it is not that they have ever fancied living in the small Balkan country they have never heard of. It is just, that the Bulgarian passport gives them unlimited residency rights (ie right of abode) in more than 30 countries in Europe, including all EU member states, UK, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. They can even live without any restrictions in number of ex-EU colonies, from South America to Oceania.

The epilogue

Amber and John are real couple, however their names are changed for privacy issues. They will be soon proud holders of EU passports and will be able to start their new life in a range of countries to their liking (including the UK). They find it unfortunate (so do we), that although they feel British (and John is British by the book), they have been denied of basic human rights by the Western powers. Luckily, they have found a way around and will be soon living their dream.

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