October 5, 2022

Hong Kong suffers biggest ever population drop as exodus accelerates

3 min read

The city’s total population fell to 7.29 million from 7.41 million, a decline of 1.6 percent, the Department of Census and Statistics said on Thursday.

Although officials attributed some of this to a “natural” decline – more deaths than births – experts said the figures also reflected an exodus that occurred during periods of widespread social upheaval in the past few years. There has been an uptick in anti-government protests and the coronavirus pandemic.

About 113,200 residents left Hong Kong last year, up from 89,200 a year earlier, the department said. The figure includes immigrants and other non-permanent residents.

Throughout the pandemic, experts and industry leaders have warned that the city’s heavy-handed COVID-19 restrictions will drive away residents, travelers and immigrants.

Even as the rest of the world opened up, for months Hong Kong It continued to close borders, suspend air routes and impose mandatory quarantine and social distancing measures such as caps on public gatherings and restrictions on restaurant services.

Mask mandates remain in effect, while public places such as beaches and gyms have faced extended closures during high numbers.

Hong Kong's Covid split: Foreigners get more benefits while domestic workers lose their homes
These actions have devastated businesses, including some of Hong Kong’s most popular sites. Jumbo Kingdom Floating Restaurant — Shuttering in the last year.
The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce said, “More than two-and-a-half years of Covid-19 restrictions are taking a heavy toll on businesses and the economy.” In a statement this month.

The group’s CEO, George Leung, added that the closure of Hong Kong’s border was “preventing any prospect of an economic recovery” and urged authorities to come up with a “solid timetable for the reopening of Hong Kong”. come along

The government acknowledged the impact of its policies on Thursday, saying that flight restrictions — such as vaccinating all arrivals, having to test negative for Covid, and paying for hotel quarantine on arrival — have “increased population influxes. I was interrupted.”

People wearing face masks walk in Hong Kong on July 12.

This week the government eased the quarantine requirement, reducing the number of days it takes to stay in a designated hotel from seven to three.

Some Hong Kongers have chosen to settle elsewhere during the pandemic, the government said.

Hong Kong tries to 'relaunch' its economy by lifting flight bans and easing quarantines

“Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents who left Hong Kong before the pandemic may have chosen to live elsewhere temporarily or may have been unable to return to Hong Kong. All of these (factors) may have contributed to the net outflow of Hong Kong residents. period,” said a government spokesman.

But the government played down the population decline and Hong Kong still seems to be a bustling financial center.

“Being an international city, Hong Kong’s population has always been mobile,” the spokesperson said. “During the past 10 years, the net outflow of Hong Kong residents … was recorded in most years.”

The spokeswoman added that the problem of Covid-driven departures “may be resolved when quarantine and social distancing measures are relaxed” and that the numbers will increase due to government efforts to attract overseas talent.

Political crackdown

Apart from Covid, experts say there is another factor behind the exodus. Beijing’s political crackdown on the city.
After Hong Kong 2019 Pro-democracy, anti-government protests, Beijing enacted a sweeping national security law, under which the government has suppressed formal opposition. Authorities have raided and closed newsrooms, jailed activists and protesters, unseated elected lawmakers, increased censorship of online and print publications, and schools. The curriculum has been changed.
A year after Hong Kong's national security law, residents feel Beijing's grip is tightening.

Since the law was introduced, many former protesters and lawmakers have fled abroad for fear of prosecution. Many individuals and families have told CNN they are also considering leaving because they feel the city has slipped out of recognition.

Following the protests, a number of countries, including the UK, Australia and Canada, opened new visa routes for Hong Kong citizens. Many former protesters and activists have also fled to the self-governing island of Taiwan.

The government has repeatedly defended the security law as restoring law and order in the city, and claims that Hong Kong’s freedoms of speech, press and assembly remain intact.

The government said on July 29 that the security law had “quickly and effectively restored stability and security,” adding that residents were “relieved and happy to see that Hong Kong is now an open, secure , is a vibrant and business-friendly city.”

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