In 2019, Leung joined a Hong Kong movement to boycott Chinese-owned restaurants like many protesters opposing President Xi Jinping’s encroachment of the former British colony. Now she and her peers regularly go out of their way to the neighboring mainland city of Shenzhen for cheap food and massages.

"Hong Kong used to have freedom,” said Leung, who asked to use only her last name because she joined what authorities deem as illegal protests. "Now it’s lost all that. So why wouldn’t I go to mainland China, where at least things are cheaper?”

Xi’s efforts to crush dissent in Hong Kong have weakened its distinct identity from China and instilled a new sense of political apathy. In the wake of the crackdown, many disillusioned residents left for democracies such as the United Kingdom, where more than 180,000 Hong Kongers have applied for a visa that provides a pathway to citizenship since 2021. For those who stayed, some have set aside their ideals and embraced a new cross-border lifestyle they once rejected.