Twice a day Hong Kong’s virtually de-serted airport fills with the sound of tearful goodbyes as residents fearful for their future under China’s increa-singly authoritarian rule start a new life over-seas, mostly in Britain.
London flights tend to leave in the afternoon and late evening, and for a few hours it briefly feels like the pandemic no longer exists as the airport comes to life.
Check-in desks fill up with crowds of passengers wheeling as much luggage as their tickets will permit.
Accompanied by the loved ones they leave behind, the scenes are emotionally charged and shadowed by a palpable pall of sorrow.
One family has brought along their favourite rice cooker, another a taste of home in the form of local shrimp noodles.
Some take a moment to pray, others pose for a final group photo or share gifts. An elderly lady hands her depart-ing grandchildren tradi-tional good luck red envelopes containing money.
Most of those leaving pause for a final hug before passing through the departure gates, the sound of sobbing continuing long after they have disappeared from view.
Clutching his British National Overseas (BNO) passport, 43-year-old media worker Hanson said he began making plans to leave when he saw footage of police beating democracy supporters in a subway train during protests two years ago.
Then came a new national security law which China imposed on Hong Kong to snuff out dissent.
“It will be a big change for me, quitting my job and starting anew in a foreign place,” he told AFP. “I will miss Hong Kong a lot, but the situa-tion has deteriorated too fast, so I have to go.”