Support to Asylum Seekers Suffering Emotional Depression

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KC shares his experience and and gives some advice to future HK immigrants to the UK

After implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law in 2020, some Hong Kong people who were not eligible for the BNO passports went to the UK to seek asylum. KC (pseudonym), who had worked in the social welfare sector, and was physically fit, was one of them. But he became emotionally unstable during the waiting period for his asylum application. His application has been dragging on for about a year now. He hopes eventually he will be granted the rights to work in the UK, and through such work he can then help more Hong Kong people in need.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, KC admitted that since the Umbrella Movement in 2014, he began to pay more attention to current affairs. In the anti-extradition movement in 2019, he moved from just one ordinary participant into a front-line role. At the later stage of the movement, he was arrested by the police at the scene of a protest.

Simple Ways to Reduce Emotional Instability

He was granted bail after arrest. He later decided to take the option of “refuse to be bailed” and went to the UK to apply for asylum when the pandemic in the UK and Hong Kong eased slightly. However, applying for asylum is not an easy move. Although basic living rights is temporarily guaranteed, if the application fails, the worst scenario is he will be deported to Hong Kong where he will be sentenced to serve some time in jail. It was all such emotional distress that at times he wanted to cut off all his connection with Hong Kong for a while.

“Because I had no money at that time, the government quickly provided some accommodation assistance for me. I am currently living in a hotel in London, and the conditions there are better than expected,” added KC.

KC relies on the eight pounds (US$9.8) a week pocket money from the British government for snacks. “Fortunately, the government provides three basic meals a day for asylum seekers, so that they can survive.” He pointed out that the hotel usually serves Indian dishes. Only if you are vegetarian, or ovo-lacto-vegetarian, will you be served different meals like veggies and the like. “As we are in the UK, you might think we would be served dishes like pan-fried steak and fish and chips, but it is not so” said KC.

The atmosphere of the interview was relaxed, and it was hard to imagine that he was a man with no identity in the UK and living an uncertain future. KC said that he solved his emotional problems by actively meeting and understanding the people and things around him. “Whether it’s a Hongkonger or a local, I always talk to them.” He pointed out that on one hand this is to train his English, but also for social needs. He even pointed out that he often talks to the hotel counter staff for hours.

“Don’t get me wrong that he was optimistic or chatty,” he told reporters, as in fact he spent most of his time hiding in his hotel room. Especially during the early days in England, he basically stayed at home, hid in his room, talked, and meditated with only himself. He even chose to ignore the news of Hong Kong just to avoid any emotional distress. However, although he wanted to pretend to ignore it, he could not avoid thinking about the situation in Hong Kong. When that started, he would get into a low mood again.

From his own experience he would recommend to newcomers the way to avoid emotional instability from getting worse. “Constantly communicate with others to dilute the feeling of loneliness. Of course, when I returned to the room, I was alone within the four walls again. By then, you felt loneliness was with you once more,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
KC loves sports, and even wore a football jersey during this interview. (Lin Ni/The Epoch Times)

Passion in Sports Enhances Communication With Locals

Fortunately, nowadays social media allowed him to make more friends without going out. Being a sports-loving person also gave him ample chances to make many friends on the sports field.

The benefits that sports brought him, along with the faster mastering of English, was also a different experience. “People here are proud of their hometown team. Even if that team always loses or is not a well-known team at all, an Englishman will still cheer for the team that represents his hometown.” Take Bristol City (BCFC) as an example. BCFC ranks very low in the league and is not a star club, but BCFC fans will still cheer their team frantically.

However, KC cannot spend every minute exercising or partying with friends. On days without work or classes life can still be extremely dull. He said he would normally watch BBC News and search online media to supplement his knowledge when he was in the hotel. “Not only can I understand the issues that British people care about, but I can also learn English,” said KC.

During the entire interview, KC emphasised communication as being vital, again and again, but the difference in language was definitely a gap between himself and people in the local area. KC generously admitted that his grade in the public test of English was U (Unclassified), the lowest level in the Hong Kong Diploma of Education (HKDSE), and his grade in English was only C when he enrolled in the Yi Jin (毅進) diploma course. “On first arrival I was even afraid of ordering food in the restaurant.” What really helped him learn English was Google Translate and the English environment all around him. “Now when I find some words I don’t know, I will use Google Translate to help, whether it’s a restaurant menu or a billboard on the side of the road. In practising that repeatedly, I can now at least order food completely in English,” he said proudly. 

It is almost a year since the asylum application. Soon there will come the right to work. Between the options of returning to the field of social welfare, or looking for a new future, KC prefers to choose the latter. He hopes that in his future work, he will be able to support Hong Kong people, especially the asylum seekers. He pointed out that a lot of the newcomers do not know where to go to find help, or do not knowing much about the asylum application process. As a person who “has been down the road before,” he hopes that asylum seekers can obtain at least a certain degree of stability on first landing here. Even though he had considered returning to the social welfare sector because of the more attractive salary compared to Hong Kong, at the moment KC still prefers to work in an organisation that could assist other asylum seekers. 

Need New Modes of Action

When it comes to protests, some netizens who claimed to be front-line protesters have criticised Hong Kong people for being far too conservative in their actions while overseas. However, KC, as a former front-line protester, believes that Hong Kong people in the UK do not need to indulge in the 2019 protest model. “The Hong Kong and Chinese governments are completely unreasonable, which is why there were more radical protests. But in the UK, they do respect your rights to speak out, and will pay attention to and listen sincerely to the demands of the people.”

For example, he pointed out that the reaction of the British public to the ongoing national railway strike was far more positive than that of Hong Kong. “People here will think that strikes and protests are employees’ due rights, and they will understand that they are on strike because they are not being treated properly, which is obviously different from the thinking in Hong Kong,” he added. 

 

Nie Law

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