Hong Kong is experiencing a historic exodus of its inhabitants. Public statistics recently indicated that its population has decreased by 1.2% over the last year. The control, repression, and limitation of freedoms that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is imposing using the National Security Law implemented in 2020 appear to be the leading cause of the massive abandonment.
Hong Kong, for several years, managed to maintain steady economic growth and development, accompanied by better welfare of its population and a logical population increase. However, the constant threats from the CCP, its interference in private affairs, and the continuous political repression caused a sharp drop in population due to the emigration of mainly young people and entire families, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The breaking point reportedly was the controversial National Security Law imposed by the CCP in 2020. As a result, nearly 90,000 residents have left Hong Kong amid a wave of emigration in the year following the law’s implementation.
The population fell to 7.39 million, down 1.2% from the previous measurement. This decline is the largest since the local people saw the first signs of a downward trend in mid-2020, at 0.3% year-on-year.
Before these declines, at least from 2003 onwards, Hong Kong’s population grew every year at a rate varying between 0.2% and 1.1%.
The government trivialized the situation and attributed it to the pandemic and the strict border controls that would have generated a low influx of people.
However, experts in social demography, such as Paul Yip Siu-fai, a renowned professor at the University of Hong Kong, called the trend “alarming” and said that part of the decline was due to a sharp increase in net migration, in addition to a minimal birth rate.
“Of course many people could be leaving Hong Kong to work and study, every year there are people doing so. But what is the reason that this year saw such an increase [from 20,900 to 89,200], the government needs to find out,” Yip said, adding that authorities should also analyze how the out-migration will affect the city’s long-term population changes.
Beijing tightened its grip on Hong Kong territory last year with a sweeping security law, which has been the source of countless demonstrations, arrests, and crackdowns on dissidents. As a result, the city’s airport has been crowded with Hong Kongers bidding farewell to their families as they depart for a new life abroad, searching for prosperity and freedom.
“There are many reasons for people leaving, there is some concern about the education of their children, the national security law and how it might affect them, as well as economic reasons,” Yip said.
Apart from the persecution of government critics, the security law has transformed Hong Kong’s institutions, such as the education system, seeking to resemble the CCP and based on indoctrination and absolute control.
Professor Yip warned about the problems that could be generated in the short term by the massive exodus of human capital that the great city of Hong Kong is suffering.
“If you go to the airport, you will see that young and middle-aged families are moving out,” adding, “When they leave Hong Kong, they take their skills and capital out of Hong Kong … our aging will be more acute than ever.”
Following the imposition of the national security law, the UK introduced the new visa scheme. In addition, it promised a path to citizenship for up to 3 million Hong Kong residents who hold or are eligible for a British nationality passport.
By the end of March, some 34,000 Hong Kong families had applied for permanent UK citizenship, taking advantage of the new immigration arrangements.
Canada and the United States also announced new ways to facilitate residency for Hong Kong citizens escaping the CCP and its perverse repressive system.