Ivan Ko, founding chairman of the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce’s Hong Kong and International Chapter, left Hong Kong following China’s imposition of the national security law, which massively curtailed freedom in the territory. Moving to the United Kingdom, he founded and later became the CEO of Victoria Harbor Group, an organization working to create a new city on former industrial land in northern England with the goal of preserving and developing Hong Kong’s freedom-loving culture away from the influence of the Chinese Communist Party. I recently spoke to him about the values that made Hong Kong successful, how it has changed since the security law, and his vision for the new city he’s developing.

Thomas Walker-Werth: Thanks for joining me, Ivan. Could you tell me why you left Hong Kong, came to Britain, and started planning a new city?

Ivan Ko: I was a real estate management executive in Hong Kong and mainland China for almost thirty years, but I left Hong Kong following the crackdown of the protests over the 2019 extradition bill. Even though the Hong Kong government withdrew the bill, the Chinese government imposed it on us through the draconian national security law. We lost our freedom to do many things, including to express ourselves, so I decided to leave Hong Kong. Fortunately, the day after the imposition of the national security law, the UK government announced that all Hong Kong citizens born before 1997 (the year of handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China) could get a visa to emigrate to the UK.

It was clear at the time that there would be tens of thousands of Hong Kongers coming to the UK. So, my partners and I started Victoria Harbor Group to develop a new city or new communities to cater to the needs of these immigrants while also attracting people from around the world, including local British people. That’s our dream, and that’s what we have been working on over the past three years.

Walker-Werth: What is it about Hong Kong that you’re trying to re-create? . . .

Hong Kongers have learned that freedom has to be protected all the time. When you are not protecting it, you will lose it.
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