Four in 10 expats in AmCham poll eyeing exit from Hong Kong

2021.05.12
Four in 10 expats in AmCham poll eyeing exit from Hong Kong

More than four in 10 expatriates are planning or thinking of a permanent departure from Hong Kong, mostly because of unease over the city’s vaguely worded national security law, an American business group has found in its latest survey.

Some 42% of the 325 people interviewed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong saw themselves leaving or potentially leaving the international financial hub for good, survey results released on Wednesday showed.

Of those respondents, 62% expressed discomfort with the national security legislation foisted on Hong Kong by Beijing last summer.

“Previously, I never had a worry about what I said or wrote when I was in Hong Kong. With the NSL [national security law], that has changed,” AmCham cited an anonymous poll respondent as saying.

“The red lines are vague and seem to be arbitrary. I don’t want to continue to fear saying or writing something that could unknowingly cause me to be arrested.”

AmCham conducted its survey from May 5 to 9 on 24% of the group’s membership.

Among those with departure on their minds, 3% said that their shift was imminent, while 24% would do so as soon as they could relocate their jobs and family. Some 10% had the intention of moving out of the city before the end of summer, another 15% might pack up at the end of this year, and 48% estimated their exit would happen in three to five years.

Other factors pushing the polled expatriates to ship out included COVID-19 mobility restrictions, which 49% said made it difficult for them to travel and visit family members. About 42% voiced pessimism over the city’s competitiveness in the future, and nearly 24% pointed to expensive goods and services in the local market.

For those who plan to stay on, 77% said that the quality of life was good, 55% felt the business environment was excellent and 48% cited the city’s proximity to the mainland Chinese market.

Some of the interviewees decided to remain as Hong Kong was still a platform for East-West exchange and offered many commercial benefits.

Tara Joseph, president of AmCham, said that they believed many businesses would have strong opportunities to thrive, but sounded a caution about “a brain drain of top talent and skills.”

The government should pay close heed to the sentiment of expatriates in Hong Kong and work toward allaying major concerns through strong understanding of international talent in the city to avoid losing its competitiveness, AmCham suggested.

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