'Do They Think It's Easy to be a Refugee?'

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hongkongpoly.jpg Protesters clash with police outside the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong in Hung Hom district of Hong Kong, Nov. 17, 2019.

Since the start of the anti-extradition protest movement in Hong Kong last year, police have arrested more than 10,000 people and prosecuted more than 2,000, mostly on public order charges that have been widely criticized by human rights groups as curbing people's right to peaceful protest.

As Beijing began a crackdown on public dissent under a draconian national security law in July, several countries have eased immigration pathways for Hongkongers fleeing their city.

Ludwig fled Hong Kong after riot police laid siege to the Polytechnic University campus, trapping hundreds of people inside in a standoff that left dozens arrested, injured, and sickened by conditions inside the campus buildings.

He left the city, the only home he has ever known, to become a refugee.

"People say, oh it's great, you can use refugee status to emigrate," Ludwig said. "But I just laugh ... do they think it's easy to be a refugee?"

"I can't ever go back to Hong Kong, the only place I have ever lived," he said. "I had my circle of friends and a fairly stable life despite all of our struggles [during the protest movement]."

"Once you come here, you have nothing at all. I don't think anyone really gets how hard it is," he said.

Ludwig left Hong Kong because he was charged with "rioting" for his part in the PolyU siege, and had no confidence that he would get a fair trial after attending a friend's trial and seeing the way the judge repeatedly interrupted and criticized the defense attorney, while encouraging the prosecutor with a deferential smile.

"My journey to Canada went smoothly enough, but I'm not going to recover quickly from the psychological pain of it," he said, in a reference to the trauma of the PolyU siege, from which he tried to escape by cutting through some barbed wire and jumping off a bridge, only to be surrounded by a group of riot police and arrested.

"I was so nervous that I counted to 10 twice before running out," he said. "As soon as we ran out ... nearly 20 policemen came in and surrounded us from two directions."

But he doesn't regret his decision to leave, and has continued to organize to raise funds for the protest movement from Canada.

"It's a pretty sad thing to be a refugee, to be in exile, but I think that as long as you have the will, you will continue to stand up [and oppose authoritarian rule] anywhere," he said.

Reported by Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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