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Inside Little Hong Kong: How a single London borough is attracting thousands of families and students fleeing China as influencers use photos of Poundland, Starbucks and Lidl to entice others to the area


The Chinese territory of Hong Kong and the South London enclave of Sutton are 6,000 miles apart, a 12-hour flight away and seemingly have little in common. 

But the London borough has become a haven for thousands of Hong Kong residents who have moved to Britain following China‘s crackdown of the financial hub.

More than 110,000 Hong Kongers have been granted visas to live in the UK since the British Nationals Overseas Scheme was launched in January 2021. 

And more than 4,000 of those have moved to Sutton alone since 2021, due to a combination of factors including a large amount of outdoor space, cheaper rent, top schools and links to London.

Social media influencers who make videos about Sutton being the perfect destination for Hong Kongers could be encouraging others to make the 10,000km move.  

The Youtube channel ‘Sutton Bei Bei’, gives a general account of life in the borough with a video guide of Sutton and the array of shops on its high street. Included among them is Poundland, Lidl and Starbucks.

Mandy Lo, 40, with daughter and GCSE student Gabby Kam, 16, told MailOnline they have lived in Sutton for over a year after moving from Hong Kong last August – moving due to concerns around the quality of education her daughter, who speaks five languages, would have received. 

Mr Chow, 34, with daughter Charlotte, 4, moved from Hong Kong to Sutton two years ago due to the concerns around the political situation in Hong Kong (the pair are pictured)

Mr Chow, 34, with daughter Charlotte, 4, moved from Hong Kong to Sutton two years ago due to the concerns around the political situation in Hong Kong (the pair are pictured)

Social media influencers are highlighting how Sutton is the perfect destination for Hong Kongers. One YouTube channel, Sutton Bei Bei, gives viewers a virtual tour of the shops

Social media influencers are highlighting how Sutton is the perfect destination for Hong Kongers. One YouTube channel, Sutton Bei Bei, gives viewers a virtual tour of the shops

The Chinese territory of Hong Kong (pictured) and the South London enclave of Sutton are 6,000 miles apart, a 12-hour flight away and seemingly have little in common

The Chinese territory of Hong Kong (pictured) and the South London enclave of Sutton are 6,000 miles apart, a 12-hour flight away and seemingly have little in common

Mandy Lo, 40, (left) moved to Sutton with her daughter and GCSE student Gabby Kam, 16, (right) over concerns the political situation in Hong Kong would impact on her education

Mandy Lo, 40, (left) moved to Sutton with her daughter and GCSE student Gabby Kam, 16, (right) over concerns the political situation in Hong Kong would impact on her education

Sutton is not the only part of London that is proving popular, with the boroughs of Kingston, Harrow, Ealing and Barnet also proving to be a draw. Other parts of the country that also have attracted Hong Kongers include Reading, Southampton, Brighton and Milton Keynes

Sutton is not the only part of London that is proving popular, with the boroughs of Kingston, Harrow, Ealing and Barnet also proving to be a draw. Other parts of the country that also have attracted Hong Kongers include Reading, Southampton, Brighton and Milton Keynes

In 2020, the Chinese government clamped down on Hong Kong, the epicentre of resistance against the ruling of the Chinese Communist party, by introducing a sweeping national law that criminalises protest and dissent.

Since then, many Hong Kong residents have made the move to the UK, with Sutton in particular becoming a popular destination. 

Mr Chow, 34, with his four-year-old daughter Charlotte, told MailOnline he moved from Hong Kong to Sutton two years ago due to the concerns around the political situation in his home country and the impact it could have on his daughter’s education and future.

Mr Chow told MailOnline: ‘We believe the education system in the UK is much better than in Hong Kong.

‘My daughter will have more opportunities to pursue a job she loves and enjoys, rather than just for money. There is more freedom of choice for her in terms of education and job opportunities.

‘I find the community in Sutton very friendly. I considered moving to Manchester, but it seemed like London was the best place to move to for me when I did my research about the area.’

Mandy Lo said: ‘Our decision to move was motivated by the political situation, but also to give my daughter the opportunity to study abroad and she needed time to adapt to the new system and culture. So that’s why we decided to move here.

‘Sutton is a really convenient place to live and the community is great.

‘I knew the schools in this area are very good too. I am an English teacher, and I tutor students back home online.’

According to Foxtons estate agents, average housing prices in the area have risen by between 15 to 20 per cent, with a three-bedroom house costing between £550,000 to £600,000.

Sutton is also known for having many schools rated outstanding by Ofsted, including the Sutton Grammar School and three of the top ten state schools in London, making the area extremely attractive for young families.

Many Hong Kong (pictured) residents have made the move to the UK, with Sutton in particular becoming a popular destination.

Many Hong Kong (pictured) residents have made the move to the UK, with Sutton in particular becoming a popular destination.

Tommy Cheng, 47, a primary school teacher, decided to move for a better quality of life

Tommy Cheng, 47, a primary school teacher, decided to move for a better quality of life

More than 110,000 Hong Kongers have been granted visas to live in the UK since the British Nationals Overseas Scheme was launched in January, 2021

More than 110,000 Hong Kongers have been granted visas to live in the UK since the British Nationals Overseas Scheme was launched in January, 2021

There are dozens of Chinese supermarkets like the one pictured in the centre of Sutton

There are dozens of Chinese supermarkets like the one pictured in the centre of Sutton

Social media influencers who make videos about Sutton (pictured) being the perfect destination for Hong Kongers could be encouraging others to make the 10,000km move

Social media influencers who make videos about Sutton (pictured) being the perfect destination for Hong Kongers could be encouraging others to make the 10,000km move

University student Danica Placeb, 17, who has lived in Sutton since she was seven said: 'I have lived here for a while now and have seen a few changes and modernisation taken place. It's definitely gotten more diverse over the years which is great to see'

University student Danica Placeb, 17, who has lived in Sutton since she was seven said: ‘I have lived here for a while now and have seen a few changes and modernisation taken place. It’s definitely gotten more diverse over the years which is great to see’

Specialty supermarkets stock a variety of Asian soft drinks, snacks, biscuits and chocolates

Specialty supermarkets stock a variety of Asian soft drinks, snacks, biscuits and chocolates

Why is Sutton an attractive destination for Hong Kongers? 

Excellent local schools:

Three of London’s top ten state schools are in Sutton. 

One of them is Sutton Grammar School, which was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in its most recent inspection. 

The others are Nonsuch High School for Girls and Wilson’s School. 

Affordable places to live: 

Sutton is the fifth cheapest place to rent in London, according to property website comparemymove.com

Sutton also has the fifth cheapest house prices in London, with an average of £368,520. 

Transport links to central London:

Sutton is just half an hour away from Central London stations on the train.

Public outdoor space:

Sutton boasts plenty of outdoor public space, including Cheam Park and Grove Park. 

There, families used to the crowded city of Hong Kong can experience outdoor activities and make use of leisure facilities including tennis and an open-air gym.

Sutton has proved so popular with Hong Kongers as a place to live that estate agent Foxtons has put signs in Cantonese in its local outlet. 

Tommy Cheng, 47, a primary school teacher, has friends in Sutton and decided to move to the area for a better quality of life.

‘When the national security law came the political situation escalated and we were scared of what was going to happen, so I moved with my family here.

‘In the very beginning it was challenging adjusting to life here. But I’ve settled over time.

‘London, and Sutton, is an international area. You can meet people from all nationalities here and all the locals are very friendly.’

Ray Edwards, 75, who has lived in Sutton his whole life, says he is glad to live in such a diverse community.

‘We are very lucky to have some many different people of different cultures wanting to live here. I have lived here all my life and haven’t seen many changes, but it has always been a diverse area and it’s great to see.’

Louisa Wan 17, a boarding school A-Level student who lives in Croydon but visits Sutton regularly said she was involved in the protests at Hong Kong because she was worried about her freedom.

‘Sutton is a great area, it’s convenient, there are great Asian supermarkets and good links to London,’ she said. 

‘I was involved in protests back in Hong Kong because they were trying to limit our freedom. We did not have freedom of speech there. Anything we posted on social media could be censored.

‘Part of the reason I chose to study internationally is because education back in Hong Kong is censored and filtered by the government. Here I have more freedom.’

Althea, 42, who did not wish to give a surname for identification reasons said she also feared for her children’s futures.

Ray Edwards, 75, who has lived in Sutton his whole life, says he is glad to live in such a diverse community and said he felt lucky to be surrounded by different backgrounds

Ray Edwards, 75, who has lived in Sutton his whole life, says he is glad to live in such a diverse community and said he felt lucky to be surrounded by different backgrounds

More than 110,000 Hong Kongers have been granted visas to live in the UK since the British Nationals Overseas Scheme was launched in January 2021 - more than 4,000 of those have moved to Sutton alone since 2021

More than 110,000 Hong Kongers have been granted visas to live in the UK since the British Nationals Overseas Scheme was launched in January 2021 – more than 4,000 of those have moved to Sutton alone since 2021

Sutton has become a desirable place to live and work due to its links to London and large amount of outdoor space. Average house prices in the area have increased by 20 per cent

Sutton has become a desirable place to live and work due to its links to London and large amount of outdoor space. Average house prices in the area have increased by 20 per cent

Sutton has three of the top ten state schools in London, plenty of leafy outdoor public space and relatively affordable places to live (pictured, an Asian supermarket in Sutton)

Sutton has three of the top ten state schools in London, plenty of leafy outdoor public space and relatively affordable places to live (pictured, an Asian supermarket in Sutton)

Sutton is not the only part of London that is proving popular, with the boroughs of Kingston, Harrow, Ealing and Barnet also proving to be a draw (pictured, a SMart in Sutton)

 Sutton is not the only part of London that is proving popular, with the boroughs of Kingston, Harrow, Ealing and Barnet also proving to be a draw (pictured, a SMart in Sutton)

General view of Sutton where Hong Kong residents have been moving to in big numbers in recent years

General view of Sutton where Hong Kong residents have been moving to in big numbers in recent years

‘We moved from Hong Kong just before the first lockdown. We saw that the political situation was deteriorating in Hong Kong.

‘I was really worried about the education system in particular, especially after the enforcement of the national security law. The education system was like brainwashing and I was worried for my children.

‘But Sutton has been a fantastic place to live, and there is a growing Hong Kong community here which is great to see.’

Sutton is not the only part of London that is proving popular, with the boroughs of Kingston, Harrow, Ealing and Barnet also proving to be a draw. 

Other parts of the country that also have attracted Hong Kongers include Reading, Southampton, Brighton and Milton Keynes.



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