Where Hong Kong Residents Are Heading Amid Covid, China Crackdown

Hong Kong’s stringent pandemic measures have taken a toll on the city’s residents, with exits picking up pace over the last two years as the city’s zero-Covid strategy wears on.

Expat familes line up at the check-in counter as they prepare to depart Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok international airport on March 6, 2022 as travel restrictions hit hard on Hong Kong's white collar "expat" foreign workers, who make up roughly 10 percent of the population with borders effectively sealed to visitors and residents who do return have faced 2-3 weeks in expensive hotel quarantines throughout most of the pandemic.

Hong Kong residents are leaving the financial hub in droves due to strict pandemic measures.

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong is now in its fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city-state’s 7.5 million residents are facing weeks-long quarantines and mass testing, with some children being quarantined away from their families if they test positive.

Even before the pandemic, many Hong Kong residents were leaving due to China’s increasing oversight on the territory. The two combined factors have created an exodus out of the city-state: Hong Kong saw a net outflow of 65,295 and 66,334 residents in February and March respectively, per an analysis of official immigration data by the Hong Kong Free Press. This was in contrast to a net inflow over the same period in 2021, the media outlet added.

“We believe that March/April will probably see ‘peak exodus,’ with expats moved either back to their own countries or to Singapore in a collective loss of patience at anti-pandemic measures,” real-estate consultancy Savills wrote in a report last week, citing “exceptionally strict” pandemic measures in Hong Kong as a push factor.

In late March, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam called the city’s brain drain “unarguable” — although she said it may not be a sign of emigration since the those departing may return in the future.

In recent years, countries including Australia and Canada have implemented aggressive immigration policies to attract talent in sectors like fintech and artificial intelligence. These have helped lure talent out of Hong Kong amid the city’s changing political landscape, immigration specialist John Hu told Insider.

Here’s where Hong Kong residents are heading.

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