I learned as an adult that my parents had applied for immigration to Canada and Australia sometime between 1993 and 1997. Both applications were approved. During this period of time, many families were leaving Hong Kong because the city, having been under British colonial rule, was about to be handed over to the People’s Republic of China. In general, people were skeptical about the 1 country, 2 systems treatment that the PRC was promising as they believed that the local government would wind up being mere puppets to the PRC. Still, my parents decided not to immigrate. They decided that they loved Hong Kong and that they had no desire to live what they would have considered “half a life” in Toronto or Sydney.
Since learning about the real possibility that I could’ve been Canadian Chinese or Australian Chinese, I have frequently wondered what might have been. Right now, in Hong Kong’s increasingly restrictive political climate, holding a passport from either of those countries would be a luxury. I’d have options if one day the oppression becomes even more real. And yet, I can’t help but feel that I’d be a more one-dimensional person. Hong Kong exposed me to cultural differences, allowed me to see more of the world, and gave me a city I call home. I imagine myself in Toronto or Sydney as a Chinese person who does not care whether Hong Kong is technically China or not. I’d be an apathetic, apolitical, citizen of nowhere.