Humans of Hong Kong

Humans of Hong Kong

Translated version of feature stories and interviews by Stand News. 立場新聞專題、人訪的英文版本。

2020/1/9 - 18:45

Exiled and Homesick in Taiwan – Confessions of a Valiant Hong Kong Protester

Humans of Hong Kong 刊出《立場新聞》專題、人物專訪的英文版本,由特約作者翻譯,方便國際讀者閱讀。

"Humans of Hong Kong" is a column highlighting the English version of feature stories and interviews by Stand News.

The streets of Taipei do not reek of the pungent stench of tear gas; but they also do not radiate with the warmth of home. There are no riot police here; but neither are his family and partner. Nick is on his own. He is a 22 year old Hong Kong frontline protester who became a political refugee six months ago. Living in exile, Nick’s life is filled with melancholy, homesickness, insomnia, guilt, and loss.

A wallet and a photograph


I met Nick in Taipei in January. He took out his wallet and showed me a photograph of him and his partner with pride.

For six months, Nick has been living in exile as a political refugee in Taiwan. He misses his partner in Hong Kong badly.

The story of Nick is not uncommon amongst frontline protesters: the protesting couple – the boy who goes to the frontline to protest, and the girl who stays at the back to provide back-up. They went out to protest together, but at the end it was the protest that drove them apart. “He did blame me for choosing to go to the frontline, which led me to have to leave my home... But I think this is something worth paying a heavy price for.”

Nick’s partner ultimately understood his decision. They are now in a long-distance relationship. They meet up in Taiwan whenever possible. As for their future, Nick has no idea as to how it will unfold.

 “We will take it day by day. After all, we have been together for years.”

The Journey to the Frontline

Before the anti-extradition movement, Nick was just one of the many protesters who participated in peaceful marches to express their views. On June 9, over a million people flooded the streets; when night fell, he saw protesters being badly beaten by the police. That experience transformed his point of view. “I am young, why shouldn’t I take up the shield and go to the frontline, to protect other protesters?” The fact that the government was turning a deaf ear to the demands of peaceful protesters further reinforced his belief that more militant actions were necessary to defend Hong Kong.

Being at the frontline, Nick experienced baton blows, tasted pepper spray, and was shot by bean bag rounds at close distance, which left two big bruises on his legs. Nick was present on 1 July when protesters stormed the Legislative Council. Before that, he had been stopped and searched by the police numerous times. After assessing the risks, Nick decided to flee to Taiwan, in spite of his injuries. 

On the day of his departure, Nick was limping with an umbrella. His flat in Hong Kong was searched by the police numerous times after he left, which made him even more certain that he was on the arrest list. “I realised that my chances of ever returning to Hong Kong were very slim.”

Guilt and Indulgence

On arrival, Nick contacted the Chi-Nan Presbyterian Church for help. The Church found him shelter and took him to see a doctor.

Life in exile is far from exciting. Nick spends most of his time lying in bed. When he does get up, he watches the livestreams of the Hong Kong protests. When there are no livestreams, he often roams aimlessly in the city, “I can’t study or work here. Life is dreary.”

 “All I can do is wait, which weakens my will to go on.”

He hopes to find a job that will fill the emptiness of his daily life. Apart from the challenge of living in a new country, Nick’s greatest challenge is emotional. He is haunted by nightmares. He trembles and screams. He sees his fellow protesters being tortured––only to wake up and realise that that it was just a dream. He can only sleep with the help of pills and antidepressants.

 “I watch protest livestreams every day; I could never stop caring about Hong Kong,” He is physically in Taipei, but his heart remains in Hong Kong. There is hardly a day when Nick does not watch livestreams of Hong Kong protests on his phone: “Looking at how those dirty cops are beating up Hongkongers… no one can sleep at night, only hide away and cry.”

Speaking about the protesters who once fought with him, Nick feels ridden with guilt, “Being at the frontline means defending and protecting the others. By being in Taiwan, I am running away from my responsibility... I feel a constant, gnawing sense of guilt.” In Taiwan, he helps the church collect donations of supplies, and sends them back to Hong Kong, which he describes as “an act of buying indulgences” for his sins. As an exile, he feels that this is the only way he can contribute.

Taiwan Election and the Future of Hong Kong Political Refugees

Nick is not the only Hongkonger who has gone into exile in Taiwan. He estimated that there are over a hundred Hongkongers currently in exile on the island.

Taiwanese citizens will elect their President on 11 January. The result will not only determine the political landscape of Taiwan, but also influence the future of Hong Kong political refugees like Nick.

Although the Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu claimed to support a more democratic Hong Kong, the KMT issued a statement on the eve of the election, demanding that the incumbent President Tsai ing-wen reveal the number of what the KMT describes as anti-extradition “violent elements”, currently seeking asylum in Taiwan. It remains unclear what attitude Han Kuo-yu will have towards Hong Kong political refugees if he is elected.

Nick said that if Han is elected, the worst-case scenario for him and the other refugees would be extradition to Communist China. The slightly less bad scenario would be greater difficulties in studying and getting a job in Taiwan. “Hong Kong political refugees would be good bargaining chips for the KMT government. To please the Chinese Communist Party, Han Kuo-yu could send us all back to China.”

Nick’s message to his family

Nick avoids discussing politics with his family as they have very different views. Even now that he is in exile, Nick doesn’t detail his new life to them.

As the interview came to an end, I asked: “Is there anything you want to say to your family in Hong Kong?”

After a pause, Nick slowly said: “I hope one day you’ll understand that we young people aren’t doing this for money or because someone has manipulated us. We’re standing up to fight injustice – because our home, Hong Kong, is being encroached upon and destroyed. People have given up their lives for this –– how can you still not understand?”

With his back to the camera, Nick said that his only wish was for his mother in Hong Kong to truly understand his feelings and thoughts one day.


(Original Chinese Version: 【流亡台灣】一名勇武巴的牽掛、內疚與迷惘