Hong Kong has had an exit valve since its mid-19th century urban beginnings; contemporary population outflows are nothing new. Stay or go – several generations have faced this choice on finding themselves at critical junctures through war, revolution, economic downturn and other events beyond their control. No easy answers exist. For some, Hong Kong is the tomb of their ancestors and even the thought of departure is inconceivable. Others astutely recognise they couldn’t ever be truly happy as a minority in someone else’s society, however tolerant. Nevertheless, Hong Kong is not easily excised by reluctant exiles, and neither would they want it to be. Tipping points vary and one person’s means little to another. Wholesale police impunity, and courts purloined for political ends might evoke a frantic bolt for the exit, or a dismissive shrug. Entitled village yobs mindlessly trashing a countryside beauty spot “because they can”, may make one person shake their head sadly, and say, “That’s it! No more pointless letters. I’m done …” For others, the ongoing pretence that everything is “back to normal” just becomes too much to bear, and they simply cannot live amid blatant lies for another day. The Hong Kong families struggling to decide whether to leave for Britain What else weights the scales? Dead-eyed, ferret-faced officials parroting lines so egregious that even the most charitable observers shake their heads and inwardly mutter that – surely – these pitiful stooges cannot themselves believe a word they are saying. Watching open-mouthed as other recent converts enthusiastically take a pickaxe to everything their own education and experience represents, and knowing no peaceful way exists to stop their vandalism. Feeling public anger and resentment metastasise into cold hatred, with a queasy foreboding that those boxed into corners with no escape will soon lash out in revenge-frenzied frustration. The steadily dawning awareness that while those in ultimate power want the place, they don’t really want its people – and certainly not as they actually are. Leader-writers in once-respected publications writing little beyond shop-worn platitudes, bilious whatabout-isms and vacuous false equivalences. Conscientious teachers – on pain of deregistration – imparting “facts” to children they know to be untrue. Medical personnel treating injuries that simply did not happen as officially presented because they could not have done. Honest members of professional bodies shaking their heads in disbelief at the vagrant thugs “elected” to senior positions. Fluffy teddy bears kitted out in riot police body armour; “tear-smoke banner” souvenirs; the soul-chilling totalitarian implications evoked by goose-step marching in anyone with the slightest historical literacy. These weary lists trudge on remorselessly as Irony’s corpse rots, unburied, in plain view. In Defying Hitler , written in 1939 and posthumously published in 2001, journalist and lawyer Sebastian Haffner described the mounting litany of small things that made him leave Nazi Germany. No single event triggered his departure, just the steady drip-poisoning of daily life. Nothing threatened his own comfortable existence; he could easily have turned broader injustices to his benefit – plenty of others did. But one day, he finally couldn’t stomach “all that” any longer, and abruptly left. What keeps people in Hong Kong, then, in the face of “all that”, with the woozy certainty of more to come? For me, the sweeping views of Tai Mo Shan from my study, over maturing trees long-nurtured and – just now – various heady floral scents wafting in through the open doors, offer a tranquil anchor, along with the uncomplicated friendship of so many ordinary/extraordinary Hong Kong people, who daily enrich my life in ways large and small. And the absolute certitude that – eventually – even the slyest, most loathsome rats will meet their destined cat, some dark night, when they least anticipate it.