Hong Kong's Population Falls For Second Year Running Amid Exodus

The public healthcare sector is losing doctors and nurses to emigration and private-sector recruiters.
By King Man Ho and Cheng Yut Yiu
Hong Kong's Population Falls For Second Year Running Amid Exodus A woman hugs a young child in a tearful farewell at the departure gates of Hong Kong's International Airport, July 19, 2021.

Hong Kong's population fell by 1.2 percent in the past 12 months, amid an ongoing exodus of people in the wake of a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

Government statistics showed the city's population fell by just over 87,000, to 7,394,700, as hundreds, sometimes thousands, of net departures continued to be recorded every day during the past few months.

Total net departures were recorded at 89,200 for the same period.

The previous year's figures also showed a decline of 1.2 percent.

Net departures have regularly reached 2,000 ahead of key visa deadlines for the United Kingdom, with net arrivals rarely reported since the national security law criminalized public criticism of the government, political opposition and other forms of activism.

The exodus looks set to hit the city's healthcare sector, with the Hospital Authority (HA) reporting the loss of 4.6 percent of doctors and 6.5 percent of nurses in public hospitals.

HA chairman Henry Fan said public hospitals are in "a worrying situation," linking the loss of doctors and nurses to the current migration wave, as those leaving had applied for detailed service records and paid up their taxes in advance, a prerequisite for leaving the city.

He said private hospitals were also seeing their doctors emigrating, and were making the situation worse by recruiting doctors from public hospitals, Fan said in a comments that were widely reported in local media.

The father of a four-year-old boy with congenital heart disease, who gave only the nickname Jayco, said his son's cardiothoracic consultant had recently left Hong Kong, with no obvious replacement in sight.

"Why would a doctor in a public hospital leave?" he said. "He had already served in public hospitals for many years, so it wasn't likely ambition."

"I think ultimately, it's because of the way everything has changed in Hong Kong, forcing dedicated healthcare workers' hands," he said. "I think he felt he had to do this to be able to live his life and take care of his children."

Hong Kong at a turning point

Professor Paul Yip from the University of Hong Kong's Department of Social Work and Social Administration told government broadcaster RTHK that Hong Kong is now at a "turning point."

"There is a watershed, a turning point, which Hong Kong will experience a rapid ageing population and if the present situation continues, I think that would have some significant impact on the population development of Hong Kong," Yip said.

"It means there will be less economic producers in Hong Kong and we would need to work harder to attract foreign talents to come to Hong Kong."

Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has sought to downplay tearful scenes at Hong Kong International Airport, as hundreds of young families lined up to leave the city in search of a better life elsewhere.

Lam said on July 20 that her government had no official position on the exodus of residents.

"Every now and then in the history of Hong Kong, there are such emigration trends," she told reporters.

Families and emigration consultants have told RFA that the government's introduction of compulsory CCP-backed "civic and social development" curriculum, alongside "national security education," in Hong Kong's schools was the key factor in their decision to leave.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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