People are leaving Hong Kong and here’s where they’re going

They laid it out during the political rallies of 2019.

They then lasted through nearly two years of the pandemic.

But this year, they say they’ve had enough.

Some told CNBC Hong Kongers will be leaving the city by 2022 — not because they want to, but because of Covid restrictions and what they see as an erosion of democratic norms that are driving them. leave.

The spike in departures is accelerating a “brain drain” for professional talent – a situation that caused fever around March, when omicron-driven Covid cases spiked across the globe. all over the city.

Now, Hong Kong’s always-chic lifestyle websites, once dominated by articles about the city’s best dim sum eateries and foot massages, are focusing on move to-do list and the tour guide received parting gifts.

‘Absolute mass exodus’

The office of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Lam said on April 26 that the government’s Covid rules balance health and economic benefits with public acceptance.

Hong Kong continues to defend “human rights and freedoms”, she said, but “one must obey the law to exercise freedom”.

About the topic people leaving Hong KongLam says it’s their “personal freedom to go in and out.”

Over the past 60 years, Hong Kong’s population has grown almost every year, from about 3.2 million in 1961 to 7.5 million in 2019, according to the Hong Kong Bureau of Census and Statistics.

Between 2015 and 2019, the city added an average of 53,000 new residents each year. However, that number is close to the number of people who have left Hong Kong only in the first two weeks of Marchaccording to the Immigration Department of the city.

Pei, a long-time Hong Kong resident, said mothers and children left Hong Kong on news that government policies were separating parents from their children, who had results. tested positive for Covid-19. Many fathers are still working, she said, but many are now asking their employers to change jobs to leave.

Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | beautiful pictures

Hong Kong will lose about 93,000 residents in 2020, followed by another 23,000 in 2021. But early estimates suggest there will be more going this year.

Pei C., who has lived in Hong Kong for 17 years, said: “For the past few years, people have thought about leaving, but in the last six months, there has been an absolute mass exodus,” said Pei. C., who has lived in Hong Kong for 17 years, said. She asked to have her last initials identified because of the sensitivities surrounding the subject in Hong Kong.

She said that the trigger — one that was echoed by many people who spoke to CNBC for this story — was well-publicized policy. separate positive children from their parents this early year.

“Understandably, a lot of parents feel nervous, so they book themselves on the first flights,” she said.

Pei estimates that 60-70% of her friends have left within the past 6 to 12 months, including those with businesses and families in Hong Kong as well as those who were committed to staying.

Move to Singapore

Most of those who leave, says Pei, head to the same place: Singapore.

“Everybody is going to come to Singapore, especially those working in finance, law and recruitment,” says Pei.

Kay Kutt, CEO of Hong Kong-based relocation firm Silk Relo, agrees, saying people are drawn to the ease of doing business, family friendliness, tax incentives and borders Singapore’s open world.

In its 40 years of existence, the past three years have been the busiest on record for Silk Relo’s sister moving company, Asian Tigers, she said.

“We can’t keep up with the capacity,” she said. “We don’t have enough people to service what’s going on in the market.”

Families are moving to Singapore, she said, but SMEs are also moving. While a company executive may have left in the past, now “they’re all going,” she said. Small companies are “taking the whole team and bringing them into Singapore.”

Cynthia Ang, chief executive officer of recruitment firm Kerry Consulting, said big companies are also moving to Singapore. She cites L’Oreal, Moet Hennessy and VF Corporation – which own brands like Timberland and North Face – as examples, while noting that many have yet to make their decision public.

“We are getting more calls from clients who are… telling us that they are moving their entire Asia Pacific office to Singapore,” she said.

Ang said other companies are staying in Hong Kong, but downsizing their offices and moving their regional headquarters to Singapore.

Australian Krystle Edwards said she has lived in Hong Kong for 12 years and wants to stay, but she and her husband will decide whether to leave in September.

“If the situation looks like 2023 will be the same in Hong Kong – hotel quarantine restrictions, all that – we will move to Singapore,” she said.

“It got to a point where it was just too much.”

When temporary becomes permanent

Some people are getting around the tight Covid restrictions in Hong Kong by going on extended vacations, Edwards said.

“A lot of the families I know went away in about three or four months,” Edwards said. “Lots of people are in Thailand – they just pack up and go to Phuket or [Koh] Samui. … They all have villas, some even send their children to school there, and they say they will return to Hong Kong in August or September.”

Many expatriates have returned home for a few months this year. Now Pei says she’s noticed many people won’t come back.

This is “absolutely” happening, Kutt said, as evidenced by the number of moves that happen without customers being present. Prior to Covid, “absentee shippers” were rare, but due to the volume of requests, Silk Relo created a service whereby an onsite team member acts on behalf of a customer who cannot be present to deliver. moving house.

Leaving for a good cause

It’s a good thing, Kutt said, that the lockdown and quarantine policies, coupled with a series of school closures that have forced many foreigners to return home – to the US, UK, Australia and other countries – are a good thing, Kutt said.

But deeply entrenched locals are also leaving, she said.

Hong Kong-born Kam Lun Yeung said his family is moving to Sydney, where he lived as a child.

“We review [Hong Kong] he say.

Lisa Terauchi grew up in Hong Kong, but left shortly after her 45th birthday, after her husband lost his job as captain with Cathay Dragon, a Hong Kong-based airline that closed operations on late 2020. She and her family moved to the Netherlands, her husband’s hometown.

Hong Kong “is no longer the country I grew up in, no longer the country I remember,” she said.

Terauchi said she has friends who are leaving, some of whom have lived there longer than she has. Although her eldest son is completing a master’s degree in Hong Kong, she said she and her husband likely won’t return, even to maintain permanent resident status.

“I mean, is it even worth it?” she speaks.

Others have moved in UK and Canada, said Kutt. During the pandemic, both countries launched visa programs that grant eligible Hong Kong residents the right to reside in their jurisdiction.

Immigration from Hong Kong to Canada is “boom“, according to Canadian immigration website, CIC News. However, more are moving to the UK, with more than 100,000 applications forwarded as of March.

“I noticed, especially I think it’s March, the number of calls [from] … The older families in Hong Kong… they have a high net worth, possibly multiple homes, they’re choosing to pack up and go,” said Kutt.

Kutt, who has lived in Hong Kong for more than 30 years, said: “Those are the things that I would say have shaken me to my core.

Where else?

Kutt said Silk Relo and Asian Tigers are also seeing “growth” in moves from Hong Kong to Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

“We are seeing companies choosing Tokyo, which she said is surprising because Tokyo has always been a place for companies that just want to access the Japanese market,” she said.

Ang of Kerry Consulting said Dubai is also attracting talent from Hong Kong. That’s especially true for American and European employers already there, she says.

Pepsi, Unilever and P&G have moved people leaving Hong Kong to Dubai, she said.

“Saudi Arabia is also trying to get a slice of the pie,” Ang said. “I haven’t seen anyone get excited about moving to Saudi Arabia…” but places in the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates, are “trying to mirror what Dubai has. done in the past few years.”

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