Story by Angel Hui, Sammy Heung and Harvey Kong
After the anti-government protests in 2019 and the implementation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has gone through drastic changes. Fears for the city’s safety and future sparked some decisions or thoughts of departing Hong Kong among Hongkongers. Myriads of emigration-related online groups and social media pages are springing up all over the Internet. It gathered like-minded Hongkongers who shared their journeys of emigration or sought advice from their group members. At the same time, many seized the opportunities to make a name for themselves on the Internet by creating their own social media pages or YouTube channels.
Sue Chan is among those who jumped on the bandwagon. Immigrated to London six years ago, she now owns her YouTube channel, “Sue Mama Channel“, Facebook and Instagram pages. From brainstorming to shooting and editing videos, Chan operates the accounts all by her own. She has accumulated 14,100 subscribers on YouTube now.
Chan said after working in Hong Kong for four years, she and her husband felt bored and wanted some new changes. As they saw that the United Kingdom was offering the Working Holiday Visa on the newspaper, they arrived the country right after getting married in 2014.
“I love travelling so most of my videos used to be related to travelling. But due to the rise of immigrants from Hong Kong, my videos have become more lifestyle-related. For example, my experience of giving birth to my children, opening a bank account, what to buy in supermarkets, etc. in the United Kingdom” Chan shared.
“To be honest, my comments towards the UK is 50-50. So from the first interview I did on Youtube, I tried my best to illustrate my genuine experience. I won’t simply talk about the bright side in order to get more views.”
Chan admitted that she did not expect that she would become a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) or an online influencer.
“I’ve never thought that my six-year experience of living in London can help Hong Kong people in such a way. I’ve never expected such a great response from my audience.” Chan smiled. “Even my manager from my previous job in Hong Kong told me to keep it up. He said I’m still helping people like a social worker because I gave useful emigration advice to those who are interested. It motivated me to continue running my channel.”
As a full-time mum, Chan said being a Youtuber prevents her from becoming out of touch from the outside world. “It is easy to feel lost after being a stay-at-home mum for three years. Managing a Youtube channel allows me to have goals and motivation in my life. I will also feel happy and satisfied after seeing supportive comments.”
Chan noted that even though she is glad about her audience growth, she does not want her viewers to look at London through rose-tinted glasses. “To be honest, my comments towards the UK is 50-50. So from the first interview I did on Youtube, I tried my best to illustrate my genuine experience. I won’t simply talk about the bright side in order to get more views.”
She said her days in London did not went well as she expected. As a social worker in Hong Kong, Chan initially wished to maintain the same occupation in London. “In the UK, people need to take certification exams and get at least Band 7 in IELTS in order to be social workers. But my English was poor so I did not have the confidence to do so.” She recalled.
“Although Hong Kong is in dire situation, emigration may not be the best choice for everyone.” Chan said. “That’s why I want to show the truth as much as possible. Other than vlogs, I also did an interview series with different people in the UK. For example, I interviewed a lesbian who emigrated from Hong Kong.”
Despite her audience are growing, Chan said she will not treat her YouTube channel as a financial source. “There is not much income. Maybe it is because I don’t have a lot of advertisements. It’s not even enough to buy a meal.” She joked. “I don’t really care about income but I hope I can produce more videos for my subscribers.”
Gaining more than 2,000 Youtube subscribers and more than 7000 Facebook followers, “The Maple Couple” focuses on the financial side of emigration, such as investments, finance management, and housing. Jenkin’s website also provides comprehensive information for people who are considering living in Canada.
“Actually, I have a company here. I would actually say we are a consulting firm focusing on lifestyle marketing. So we do a lot of things that are related to finance as well, and I personally have the investment and insurance licences.” He said.
He also offers consulting and college application services. “My company actually has contracts with various colleges in Canada, in Toronto, and we are building our network in Alberta and B.C. as well. So we have direct contracts with these colleges. When people want to study in Canada, when they approach me, I can do the application for them for free. So I just get the income from the colleges.” He added.
“You see what I’m doing is that I’m trying to put myself in a more professional setting. So we are providing real information, especially in more difficult topics that no one wants to tap into, like finance decisions.”
With all of his services being free of charge, he said he would like to help people with limited budgets, “deep down what I’m thinking is that I really want to do something to help Hong Kong people after I leave Hong Kong. It’s not just that I left and I live a good life and forget all the people from Hong Kong. So I believe that this will become a good platform to help people who want to come to Canada and have a good life, good second life.”
With the increasing number of “immigration KOLs”, Jenkin said he tried his best to provide quality contents, especially more complicated topics.
“You see what I’m doing is that I’m trying to put myself in a more professional setting. So we are providing real information, especially in more difficult topics that no one wants to tap into, like finance decisions.” He noted.
He suggested that people should watch out for the content quality. “If there are too many people doing this, there’ll be too much information. And it would depend on the quality. I’m not saying to some of them, of course, you are not good.” He added
With the rising number of people who put their experience on the Internet, people may treat them as another source of advice when compared to professional immigration consultants. John Hu who runs John Hu Migration Consulting shared a similar view on these “immigration KOL”, which echoes with what Jenkin said.
“This is a free society, people can say what they want, but the problem is that social media is flooded. A very young person who says they are ‘emigration KOLs’, how much experience do they have in this area?” Hu questioned.
Hu encouraged social media users to think clearly what to believe when they are receiving information from these influencers.
“Living in Sham Shui Po or the Peak is a completely different thing in terms of living environment. You need to understand what social class they are coming from to talk about the living environment. They could be talking about life in their own regions, not a complete picture about life in that country.” He added.
“You need to understand more, not just listen to one KOL and believe what they are saying.” Hu suggested. “So I think you can use them as a reference.”