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Hongkongers flee in record numbers amid Chinese crackdown on dissent

For the first half of 2021, Hong Kong saw a 1.2 per cent drop in the city's total population, the biggest decline since it began collecting records in 1961.

Hongkongers flee in record numbers amid Chinese crackdown on dissent
AP Photo/Vincent Yu
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Tens of thousands of people have departed Hong Kong amid a crackdown on dissent in recent weeks. The China-run city-nation has placed an increased emphasis on patriotic propaganda in its education system and has jailed most of its political opposition for their involvement in the pro-democracy protests of 2019.

According to financial information service Webb-Site, Hong Kong recorded more than 72,000 net departures of its current residents through the international airport from July 1 to October 13. The daily figures were provided by the city's immigration department, Radio Free Asia reported.

For the first half of 2021, the government’s population statistics recorded a fall of nearly 90,000 in the city’s population. The departures come at a time when a 21-day COVID-19 quarantine is in place for new arrivals.

The departures mark the biggest decline in the city’s population since it began collecting records in 1961. For the first half of the year, Hong Kong saw a net outflow of 89,200 residents, leading to a 1.2 per cent drop in the city’s total population, the Census and Statistics Department reported in August.

As reported by Rebel News earlier this year, asylum claimants to Canada have swelled following China’s takeover of the island, which was formally governed by the British. China demanded that 300,000 dual Canadian citizens in Hong Kong must choose a single nationality.

Although officials in Hong Kong are trying to downplay the scale of the exodus, state media organization CRNTT has acknowledged a link between the outbound residents from Hong Kong and the imposition of China’s draconian national security law last summer.

Most of the residents leaving the island have departed to the U.K. through the visa-to-citizenship route for British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders and their kin.

Radio Free Asia reports that nearly 65,000 Hong Kong residents submitted an application for the visa in the first five months after its launch, with more than 70 per cent receiving approvals by the end of June, the U.K. Home Office reported in September.

Some 5.4 million Hong Kong residents and eligible to apply for the visa, and the British government estimates that up to 300,000 people will take up the offer within the first five years of its implementation.

“The recent Hong Kong arrivals are in general a mature and agile workforce that is ready to potentially add/bring high value to the U.K. labour market and economy,” a report by advocacy group Hongkongers in Britain found, noting that the asylum seekers are “quite ready to fill in job vacancies not from their original work sectors.”

While some 70 per cent of the applicants have at least one degree and over ten years experience, many of them say they are applying for blue-collar jobs in the U.K., where vacancies need to be filled in the wake of the pandemic and Brexit.

“Many of the early arrivals are middle-class parents with children … [who] saw the greatest need to leave Hong Kong as soon as possible (due to the political suppression of freedoms and education),” the report said.

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  • By Ezra Levant

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