Tue, Jul 19, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Hong Kongers look to emigrate to Taiwan, elsewhere

Reuters, HONG KONG

When activists began setting fire to trash cans 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 places in Asia, has become increasingly polarized with occasional violent protests, fueled in part by tensions with Chinese Communist Party leaders in Beijing over the territory’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. About 42 percent of Hong Kong residents want to leave, a survey by independent think tank Civic Exchange showed last month. That compares with 20 percent wanting to leave 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 Kongers 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 percent over a similar time frame, data showed.

The most recent data from the US 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 does not provide data for Hong Kong, but aggregate figures for emigrants from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, 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 Kongers] started to be nervous about the future,” said Andrew Lo, a director of Anlex Services, which handles immigration cases in Taiwan.

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,” Chan said.

The disappearances of five men connected to Mighty Current publishing house and Causeway Bay Books, which specialize in gossipy political books about Chinese leaders, some of whom were believed to have been abducted by Chinese agents, has also eroded broader confidence in the “one country, two systems” formula under which the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

One of the men who returned to Hong Kong told media he might emigrate to Taiwan because he no longer feels safe in the territory.

“Young people were more upset about the government two years ago, but the sense of dissatisfaction actually cuts across ages now,” said professor Michael DeGolyer, who co-led the study.

In Taipei, the Mainland Affairs Council said it expected the increase in Hong Kong immigrants to continue.

“Taiwan is an open, pluralistic and liberal democracy. The people are very friendly. Housing prices and consumer prices are relatively cheap, while entrepreneurial opportunities and the similar cultures of Hong Kong and Taiwan are all factors for Hong Kong residents to consider coming to Taiwan,” it said.

Hong Kong’s immigration department declined to comment.

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