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