Hong Kong’s population has dipped by 1.6 per cent to around 7.29 million, with more than 113,000 residents leaving the city in the past year, according to government figures. The year-on-year drop was the largest percentage decline over a 12-month period since records began in 1961.

The Census and Statistics Department released the latest mid-year population figures on Thursday. The data showed that 113,200 Hong Kong residents left between mid-2021 and mid-2022, while there was an inflow of 18,300 One-way Permit holders, leaving a net outflow of 95,000 people.

Hong Kong International Airport Departure queue
File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“Amidst the continued impact of Covid-19, stringent border control and quarantine measures have been in place in Hong Kong, the mainland and other places around the world, resulting in severe interruption of cross-boundary travel,” a government spokesperson said, according to a statement issued on Thursday.

“Hong Kong residents who had left Hong Kong before the pandemic may have chosen to reside in other places temporarily or were unable to return to Hong Kong. All these might have contributed to the net outflow of Hong Kong residents during the period,” the statement added.

Natural decrease

A natural decrease was also a factor contributing to the drop in population, authorities said. A natural decrease occurs when the number of deaths surpasses the number of births. Hong Kong recorded 61,600 deaths and 35,100 births.

children play mask
Photo: GovHK.

“The plunge in births in the recent two years might also be attributable to the outbreak of Covid-19 since early 2020. On the other hand, the number of deaths edged up gradually from 45,400 to 61,600 over the past five years in tandem with the ageing trend of the population,” the spokesperson said.

Continuous exodus

While statistics, such as an increasing number of people applying for the British Nationals (Overseas) visa to resettle in Britain, have pointed to a mass exodus of Hongkongers, the government has disputed the scale of the phenomenon. The emigration trend became evident in particular after the anti-extradition protests and unrest in 2019.

HKFP previously reported on other indicators that suggested Hong Kong was indeed witnessing an ongoing trend of long-term, if not permanent, departures. Those indicators included school vacancies and withdrawals of pension fund.

Hong Kong International Airport travel immigration emigration
Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The next annual population data will be published in early 2023.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.