Security laws spark Hong Kong exodus

Hong Kong has experienced a record exodus of its population in the year since strict new national security laws were introduced.

Almost 90,000 people have left the former British colony since the new laws came into force in June last year, representing a 1.2 per cent decline in the population.The UK, Canada, United States and Taiwan were reported to be the most popular destinations for Hongkongers seeking a new life abroad. Australia - traditionally a popular relocation spot - did not figure over the past 12 months because of the pandemic-induced lockdown of its border.

Exodus plus low birth rates "alarming"

The decline in the population since the start of last year is the first Hong Kong has seen since 2003. Meanwhile, 89,200 estimated to have left were replaced by only 13,900 incomers during a period when Hong Kong recorded 50,400 deaths and 38,500 births.The Hong Kong government insisted that people had not not been leaving because of the clampdown on democracy but for a variety of reasons, including work and study, which a spokesman said was “conceptually different from immigration and emigration”, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).Additionally, the spokesman added, Covid-19 border controls and containment measures had led to the comparatively small number number of people arriving in Hong Kong.But Paul Yip Siu-fai, professor in social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, described both the net outflow and the low birth rate as "alarming".Immigration consultants and analysts told the SCMP that the number leaving could increase in the coming months as new emigration paths opened up in countries such as the US, Britain and Canada.

Immigration from Hong Kong to the UK

In January, the UK introduced a scheme which theoretically entitled 5.4 million of the estimated 7.4 million Hong Kong population to apply to relocate to Britain for up to five years and then apply for permanent residency.The launching of the visa was a direct response to Beijing imposing the security laws on Hong Kong. London expects up to 300,000 Hongkongers will seek to move over the next five years and, so far, more than 34,000 applications have been made.
In the US, President Joe Biden Thousands announced last week that Hong Kong residents were to be offered a temporary "safe haven" in the country, enabling them to stay for up to 18 months.Mr Biden said the move was a direct response to Beijing violating democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, accusing China of "undermining (Hong Kong's) remaining democratic processes and institutions, imposing limits on academic freedom, and cracking down on freedom of the press".Samuel Chu, from the Washington-based Hong Kong Democracy Council, told the BBC that the move could affect some 100,000 people, including Hong Kong students currently studying in the US and now unwilling to return home."It is a significant number because, I think, its a pretty good chance that a pretty large number of visitors would benefit from this," he said.“Partly also because the situation in Hong Kong has been unfolding pretty publicly, and you've seen people travelling and leaving Hong Kong in droves, not just to the US but other countries.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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