HONG KONG: When activists began setting fire to trash bins and hurling bricks at police during a February riot in Hong Kong, Chris Lee became more convinced his decision to leave his siblings and mother behind and move to Taiwan was the right one.
Hong Kong, long known as one of the safest and most law-abiding cities in Asia, has become increasingly polarised with occasional violent protests, fuelled in part by tensions with Communist Party leaders in Beijing over the Chinese-ruled city’s democratic future.
“It’s not just the politics that are messed up,” said Lee, who moved to Taiwan in March and opened a restaurant. “It is also the people who have become irrational and fickle that drove me to leave.”
Lee is not alone. Some 42 per cent of Hong Kong residents want to leave, a survey by independent think tank Civic Exchange showed in June. This compares with 20 per cent wanting to leave neighbouring Singapore.
Seventy percent of 1,500 people surveyed said Hong Kong had become “worse” or “much worse” to live in, with the biggest concerns housing, the “quality of government” and education.
The number of Hong Kong people emigrating to Canada almost doubled in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year, and the number moving permanently to Taiwan rose 36 per cent over a similar time frame, data shows.
The most recent data from the United States is from 2014 and flat. Emigration to the UK has declined, but the minimum amount for those seeking to qualify for residency as investors there has also doubled to £2 million (US$2.64 million).
Australia doesn’t provide data for Hong Kong but aggregate figures for emigrants from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Mongolia rose slightly last year.
The diminishing confidence in Hong Kong’s future follows the “Occupy Central” protests in late 2014 demanding Beijing grant Hong Kong full democracy.
“After Occupy, (Hong Kong people) started to be nervous about the future,” said Andrew Lo, a director of Anlex Services Limited, which handles Taiwan immigration cases.
Mary Chan, of immigration experts Rothe International Canada, said the immigration process typically takes one to two years. “Which is why the numbers are only increasing now,” she said.
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