Hong Kong is a former British colony declared an autonomous territory in 1997, although it has remained 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.
However, in recent years, the Chinese regime has gradually ceased respecting the “non-intervention” agreements, meddling more and more in the island’s political, economic, and social affairs until it has almost taken total control.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) exceeded all limits by implementing the National Security Law imposed two years ago, in June 2020, through which it officially intervened on the island.
Following the new law’s approval, Beijing established a national security office 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.
The consequences were quickly felt. In addition to thousands of political prisoners, censored journalists, and the banning of opposition media, there has been an actual departure of Hong Kongers. They decided to abandon everything for fear of being persecuted and settled overseas.
This week, two years after the imposition of the National Security Law, the exodus became even more visible with protests in major cities around the world demanding the return of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.
Three years of unanswered demands, violence, and exodus
Three years ago, some two million of Hong Kong’s seven million residents took to the streets to protest against a controversial bill allowing its residents to be extradited to mainland China to be tried under its laws.
Police attempts to quell the disorder led to increasing institutional violence. In 2020, Hong Kong finally passed the National Security Law, which, among other things, made it easier to punish protesters and increased Beijing’s control over the city.
Then came an exodus of citizens and pro-democracy political referents, especially after, in 2021, the Chinese authorities outlawed all political parties. Public statistics recently indicated that its population decreased by 1.2% during 2020/21.
Since the mid-1990s and for several years, Hong Kong has maintained steady economic growth and development, accompanied by better welfare of its population and a logical population increase. However, the lack of institutional guarantees and the absence of freedoms imposed by the CCP has caused a sharp drop in population due to the emigration of mainly young people and entire families.
Following the imposition of the national security law, the UK introduced the new visa scheme, which promised a path to citizenship for up to 3 million Hong Kong residents who hold or are eligible for a British nationality passport.
Canada and the United States also announced new ways to facilitate residency for Hong Kong citizens escaping China’s communist regime and its perverse repressive system.
Economy in crisis?
Not only are tens of thousands of people deciding to leave Hong Kong, but thousands of companies that have developed on the island and today prefer to move their firms to other parts of the world that guarantee greater security, stability, and freedom above all else.
This is also driving an unfortunate “brain drain,” as thousands of young professionals can no longer find a destination in the city and prefer to try their luck abroad.
Singapore seems to be one of the leading destinations for Hong Kongers opting for exile. According to testimonies, people are attracted by the ease of doing business, family friendliness, tax incentives, and open borders of the Asian country.
As Cynthia Ang, managing director of renowned consultancy Kerry Consulting said, small and large Hong Kong companies are moving to Singapore. She cited L’Oreal, Moet Hennessy, and VF Corporation, the latter of which owns brands such as Timberland and North Face, as examples and noted that more have yet to make their decisions public.
Experts in social demographics, such as Paul Yip Siu-fai, a renowned professor at the University of Hong Kong, called the trend “alarming.” Professor Yip warned of the problems that could be generated in the short term by the mass exodus of human capital suffered by the big city of Hong Kong.
“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 are taking their skills and capital out of Hong Kong … our aging will be more acute than ever.”
Hong Kong and the pandemic
COVID-19 disease pandemic came after the imposition of the National Security Law and the persecution of movements promoting Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy. The CCP used it as a perfect argument to impose Orwellian measures and deepen its control over the population.
Among the strict, even absurd, measures implemented by the Hong Kong government, following the anti-COVID guidelines of the Chinese communist regime, was the separation of children infected with the virus from their parents.
As an official policy, when the Omicron variant arrived on the island, the health authorities, upon detecting cases of children with COVID, separated them from their parents until the young patient was fully recovered.
Foreign consulates based in Hong Kong, including the United States and Australia, expressed concern over the isolation policy. On March 2, the U.S. government advised against travel to Hong Kong, citing COVID restrictions, “including the risk of parents and children being separated.”
Coupled with measures that forced residents to remain in lockdown for prolonged periods, it paralyzed the economy and the normal development of the city to the maximum extent possible.
These exaggerated measures, which are an attack on individual freedom, affected the citizens and the large industries. As a result, the economy suffered. It was another reason highlighted by the thousands of people and companies that decided to leave the island to settle in other parts of the world.
The prospects for the freedoms of the Hong Kong people and the development of their democratic system are not optimistic. Only a joint and decisive action led by the major Western powers could exert sufficient pressure on the Chinese communist regime to bring about real change. Unfortunately for the people of Hong Kong, so far, no such movement seems to be in the making.