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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid