News / Asia

    Hong Kong Exodus: Middle Class Leave City for Freedoms Overseas

    FILE - A pro-democracy protester, wearing a mask depicting a Chinese political prisoner, carries a placard, with the prisoner's name and his charges, during a protest calling for the release of political prisoners in Hong Kong, Oct. 1, 2013.
    FILE - A pro-democracy protester, wearing a mask depicting a Chinese political prisoner, carries a placard, with the prisoner's name and his charges, during a protest calling for the release of political prisoners in Hong Kong, Oct. 1, 2013.
    Ivan Broadhead
    Before its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, a wave of Hong Kong citizens emigrated to the United States, Canada and Australia, fearful of a future under Communist rule. That exodus slowed as China proved willing to respect Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Now, however, social and political factors are again driving Hong Kongers to leave the former British colony.
               
    The China Post reported this week that the number of Hong Kong citizens seeking residency in Taiwan has grown six-fold in the last half year, rising to nearly 700 applications in September.
     
    Immigration consultant Mary Chan, of Rothe International Canada, said her Hong Kong office has been inundated with inquiries from families seeking to move overseas.
     
    Similar trends occurred during the 1997 handover, the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2003 SARS outbreak, but Chan thinks that different factors are at play this time. 
     
    “They are not so happy with the situation now in Hong Kong. The majority are concerned about the education of their kids; it’s not easy to get them into a good school. Property prices are the second concern. For middle class families, prices are really unaffordable,” said Chan. 
     
    Almost 4,000 people emigrated from Hong Kong in the first half of 2013, a rise of eight percent from last year. Migration is “the talk of the town,” said legislator Fernando Cheung. The cost of living is certainly a factor; Cheung cited data indicating his constituents would have to pay an average $1 million to buy even a tiny apartment in Hong Kong’s central district.
     
    However, he also observed that frustration with the Hong Kong government - and Beijing’s increasing erosion of the city’s fiercely guarded political autonomy - are also driving the latest exodus.
     
    “The government lacks legitimate support. There is no real democracy and more direct manipulation by [China] of Hong Kong affairs. In the most recent saga, about the issue of free public TV licenses, there is hard evidence China was trying to impact how legislators would vote. We are losing our autonomy, and people are thinking of moving away, permanently,” said Cheung.  
     
    Rightly or wrongly, many Hong Kongers blame their woes on an influx of mainland Chinese visitors. In just the last year, 35 million mainlanders came to the city.
     
    Many of these visitors enter on visas allocated by Beijing, not the local authorities. Half a million settled in the city in the last decade. The total population of Hong Kong is just seven million.
     
    They are now commonly referred to as “locusts”, due to their voracious consumption of Hong Kong resources and the pressure they put on infrastructure, including schools and hospitals.
     
    In September, before the academic year began, thousands of Hong Kong parents camped for days outside local kindergartens. They were there to secure scarce places for their own children before those places were claimed by children born to mainland families. 
     
    One mother, a marketing executive and mother of two, is in the process of relocating her family to North America. Close to tears, she feels she is being driven away from her home.
     
    “We are sad to leave. We love Hong Kong. But we feel there is nothing we can do. Even if we fight, what will happen? I am very afraid that June 4th will be repeated here,” she said, referring to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
     
    Beijing is aware that Hong Kongers are increasingly resentful of China, its government and its people. Of particular concern is a civic movement, driven by Hong Kong’s professional classes, that intends to occupy the city’s business district next summer.
     
    The campaign will highlight how Beijing has stalled on its promise to implement universal suffrage. Cheung wonders how the central government will deal with the restless Cantonese in Hong Kong, and cannot help but make a comparison between the city and Xinjiang and Tibet.
     
    “There is a sense among many of my constituents that the mainland has intentionally tried to create this influx to dilute the Hong Kong population… employing the same tactic they use in Xinjiang to maintain very tight control of the ethnic minorities over there,” said Cheung.
     
    This weekend, following the recent Communist Party plenary session, deputy secretary general of the National People’s Congress standing committee, Li Fei, will hold talks in Hong Kong about political reform.
     
    While the population awaits change, government figures confirm that for only the eighth time in the last 50 years, more people are leaving Hong Kong to build a new life overseas than are putting down roots in this southern Chinese city.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.