Hong Kong recorded a decline in population in the past year as people fled strict Covid-19 restrictions and Beijing’s growing grip on society.

As Nikkei Asia reported, the regime’s data released by the Census and Statistics Department on Thursday show that Hong Kong’s population stood at 7.29 million as of the end of June. That means the city had lost 121,500 citizens, or 1.6%, from a year earlier. It is the steepest decline since 1961—and the most significant drop for which data is available.

According to the South China Morning Post, between mid-2021 and mid-2022, the city recorded 61,600 deaths and 35,100 births, decreasing by 26,500 people. In this period, 113,200 residents left Hong Kong for elsewhere.

Compared to the previous year, the number of departures was nearly 1.3 times higher.

Severe COVID-19 restrictions and enacting the national security law may have also played a role. In the previous 12 months, around 20,900 people left.

A regime spokesman said that Hong Kong’s fertility rate is persistently among the lowest in Asian economies. 

He stated, “The plunge in births in the recent two years might also be attributable to the outbreak of COVID-19 since early 2020.” 

He added that the population’s aging was in tandem with the gradual increase in deaths over the past five years.

The national security law could have also contributed to the population decline. The move gave police sweeping new powers. Numerous pro-democracy politicians and activists have been arrested under the law since it was enacted in 2020. 

Since then, several Hongkongers have chosen to flee to other Western countries.

For example, between January 2021 and March this year, 113,742 Hongkongers received British National (Overseas) visa approvals to relocate to the UK.

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