43.9 per cent of Hongkongers polled have said they would be inclined to emigrate if given a chance, according to a Chinese University of Hong Kong survey. It comes following a year of turmoil for the city, with mass protests and unrest, a wide-reaching crackdown by the authorities and the implementation of the national security law.

The university’s Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies’ conducted a telephone survey of 737 people and released the results on Tuesday. Of those open to emigrating, 35 per cent said they have taken action to prepare for a move.

File Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

The Institute said both numbers “significantly increased” compared to polls conducted in December 2018. Back then, 34 per cent said they were inclined to emigrate. Of those who wanted to move, 23 per cent said they had taken action to plan for emigration.

Among the survey respondents, 46.8 per cent said they were not inclined to emigrate, whilst 9.3 per cent said they are not sure.

The most popular destinations were the UK (23 per cent), followed by Australia (11.6 per cent) and Taiwan (10.7 per cent). Almost a tenth said they were inclined to move to mainland China if they had a chance.

The top factors pushing respondents to emigrate were “dissatisfaction with the SAR government, the chief executive, senior officials or government policies,” “too much political dispute/social cleavage,” “liberty, human rights or freedom of information is weakening,” and “no democracy in Hong Kong.”

The institute targeted individuals aged 18 or above between September 18 and 24, with a response rate of close to 70 per cent.

Holding out for BNO visa changes

Willis Fu, marketing director and senior immigration consultant at Goldmax Associates, told HKFP that enquiries about emigration peaked after the national security law was enacted. However, he said that many individuals were still “considering whether they need to take action immediately.”

Many Hong Kong people have both BN(O) and HKSAR passports. Photo: HKGolden.

In June, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into city’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.

“Most of those who do not have preferred destinations would now choose the UK,” Fu said. “With upcoming changes in BNO visa policies, there would be close to no investment cost, so people could leave right away.” This group of people would stay put until January next year, when the UK government is expected to announce procedures for obtaining visas using their British National Overseas passports .

Fu specialises in handling US immigration for nurses in Hong Kong. The US offers permanent residency to foreign registered nurses wishing to immigrate. He said he has received over 200 enquiries from local nurses since March.

There is a wide range for immigration costs, Fu said. Technical immigration to Canada could cost as little as HK$60,000 for those who fit requirements, although investment immigration would cost upwards of HK$1 million. Obtaining a US investment immigration visa would cost about HK$7 million.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.