Chinese Official Dismisses Wave of Emigration From Hong Kong

Huang Liquan says people in the city are filled with 'positive energy' and patriotic feeling.
By Emily Chan
2021.08.25
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Chinese Official Dismisses Wave of Emigration From Hong Kong Friends cry together at the departures gate of Hong Kong's International Airport as one of them prepares to emigrate to Britain, July 19, 2021.
AFP

A ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official in charge of Hong Kong on Wednesday dismissed a wave of emigration from the city in the wake of a crackdown on dissent under Beijing's national security law.

Huang Liuquan, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office under China's State Council, said young people in the city are "full of confidence about a bright future."

“I have noticed a different atmosphere now that the [Hong Kong government] is taking aggressive action, and I have felt a sense of positive energy from all kinds of patriotic people," Huang told journalists after meeting with a youth organization to explain the CCP's 14th Five Year Plan.

Huang was responding to media questions about an ongoing exodus of people from the city since the national security law took effect.

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 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 daily 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.

"Some people think that this is because of the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong, and that they have lost confidence, but I don't think that is correct," Huang said.

He promised further economic measures to support work and educational exchanges for young Hongkongers in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

'Starting to panic'

But people leaving Hong Kong for good, many of them young families, have repeatedly told RFA that their motivation was largely political.

"Anyone saying that this has nothing to do with the national security law or the political climate is under a misconception," a former Hong Kong resident who gave only the nickname Michael told RFA.

"More than 40 democrats were arrested on totally unwarranted charges just for taking part in a primary election."

"I was starting to panic, just staying there, and the national security law was definitely a factor that hastened my decision [to emigrate]," he said.

A fourth-year journalism student who gave only the nickname Ryan said the greater economic opportunities promised to young Hongkongers in neighboring mainland Chinese cities won't replace what has been lost.

"They have done too many things to discourage young people: they have cracked down on universities, derecognized student unions, gotten rid of professors, and eroded Hong Kong's academic freedom and freedom of speech," Ryan said.

"How could I possibly hope for a better future in the Greater Bay Area?"

No confidence in the future

Joseph Cheng, former politics lecturer at Hong Kong's City University, said the latest population statistics were "alarming."

"Neither Beijing nor Hong Kong officials are willing to admit that there is a crisis in Hong Kong," Cheng said. "Hong Kong residents lack confidence in the future and can't tolerate the current situation, so a considerable number of people are choosing to emigrate."

"I think the central government must care about that, because it will affect how its policies in Hong Kong are perceived in the international community," he said.

Cheng, who has himself recently emigrated, said the feelings of the people of Hong Kong are no longer being taken into account by Beijing.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Law Society elected a board of candidates with links to Beijing's Central Liaison Office in Hong Kong, after former candidate Jonathan Ross withdrew from elections to the society's leadership citing intimidation against himself and his family.

Ross' withdrawal came after warnings from the pro-CCP media and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam that the society should stay out of politics or disband.

Jimmy Chan, Tom Fu, Justin Yuen, Ronald Sum, and incumbent Careen Wong all warned during their campaigns that the society should become "politicized."

All have said they have ties to the Central Liaison Office, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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