According to Hong Kong’s Statistics and Census Department, some 113,200 residents have left the territory over the past 12 months, contributing to an overall drop of 1.6% in its population.
This situation marks a continuity in the tendency of Hong Kongers to leave their roots and seek new directions in lands far from the repression and constant persecution of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In addition to the problems caused by the growing departures, there has been a notable decrease in the birth rate. The city recorded 61,600 deaths and 35,100 births between mid-2021 and mid-2022, leading to an extra decline of 26,500 people.
Hong Kong is a former British colony declared an autonomous territory in 1997, although it has never ceased to be under the tutelage of the Chinese communist regime. Nevertheless, its relative autonomy has allowed it to develop and become one of the most important financial centers in the world, maintaining a steady growth in the welfare of its population.
But what has happened in recent years to make a large part of its population, especially young people, decide to leave everything to settle abroad?
The question is not difficult to answer. It is enough to analyze when the exodus began to immediately understand that it coincides with the imposition of the National Security Law by the CCP in 2020, which ultimately broke the relative independence that the island had enjoyed until then.
Following the new Law’s passage, the central regime in Beijing established a national security bureau in Hong Kong, whose task was to deal with “subversion against the state, combat terrorism, separatism and conspiracies with foreign forces.”
The scope of these tasks is so abstract that it is ultimately up to the authorities to subjectively determine at their whim what non-compliance with these matters entails, giving unrestricted freedom to the regime to get rid of any opposition or sectors that threaten its interests.
In 2020 almost 90,000 residents left Hong Kong, and the trend continues to this However, before this population declined, at least from 2003 onwards, Hong Kong’s population grew every year at a rate varying between 0.2% and 1.1% per year.
As expected, the regime downplayed the situation and attributed it to the pandemic and resulting international crisis. However, experts in social demographics say that the problem could be alarming and have severe consequences for the productive future of the island.
Three years of unanswered demands, violence, and exodus
Three years ago, around two million of Hong Kong’s seven million residents took to the streets to protest against a controversial bill that allowed its residents to be extradited to mainland China to be tried under its laws.
The police tried to quell the disorder with repressive methods causing endless violence, arbitrary arrests, injuries, and deaths. In 2020, Hong Kong finally passed the National Security Law, which made it easier to punish protesters and increased Beijing’s control over the city.
Then began the exodus of citizens and pro-democracy political refugees, especially after, in 2021, the Chinese authorities outlawed all political parties and censored opposition media.
An example of this censorship occurred when Hong Kong’s most popular pro-democracy anti-communist newspaper, the Apple Daily, closed its doors after the Chinese authorities arrested its main editors and froze the company’s assets.
Any action, comment, or publication on the Internet by Hong Kongers can be considered an act of treason, secession, sedition, or subversion towards the Chinese state, and individuals are judged as if they were Chinese.
Demographic imbalance and economic consequences
Not only are tens of thousands of people deciding to leave Hong Kong, but thousands of companies that have developed on the island prefer to move their firms to other parts of the world that guarantee greater security, stability, and freedom above all else.
Consequently, this also leads to an unfortunate “brain drain” since thousands of young professionals can no longer find a place in the city and prefer to try their luck abroad.
For a logical and natural reason, young people are the sector where every society places its hopes for a sustainable and prosperous future. When countries have seen young people emigrate for various historical reasons, the consequences have always been catastrophic.
According to a survey released on April 19, 84% of Hong Kong residents are willing to leave the city to live in other countries.
Bartra Wealth Advisors, a Hong Kong-based immigration advisory service, conducted the survey in March 2022 and collected data from people over 18.
The results confirmed that 84% of respondents intend to emigrate, of which 50% seek a better living environment, 30% are motivated by better education for their children, and 20% want to reside and obtain foreign citizenship.
Demographic crisis affects education
Many of the thousands of young citizens leaving Hong Kong are school teachers and university professors, a sector generally committed to political causes and where much of the anti-communist resistance is concentrated and suffers most from their persecution.
A record number of educators have opted to resign from their posts and take refuge abroad, mainly in Singapore, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This unfortunate exodus is leading to a severe shortage of teachers in educational institutions, prompting the authorities to hire apprentices into the profession, even before they graduate.
In April 2022, the Hong Kong Education Bureau said 5,270 kindergartens, primary, secondary, and special school teachers resigned in 2020-2021, well above the 3440 between 2019-2020. Data for the last 12 months is not yet confirmed, but the upward trend is expected to continue.
Hong Kong Education Workers’ Union president Wong Kin-ho warned about the high number of resignations in the past two academic years, claiming it had created serious staffing problems in some schools.
“I heard of one school with 67 teachers that lost 14 teachers in one year, that’s about 20 percent of their manpower, which is quite high,” said Wong, who is also the deputy principal of a secondary school.
Such a significant emigration of a country’s productive force can have unimaginable consequences. We are only beginning to see the first ones at the moment, but if the “brain drain” continues, the future for Hong Kong does not seem to be at all encouraging.