Hong Kong residents leave, if they can
An increasing number of Hong Kong residents have said they no longer see a future for themselves in the city. A new China’s national security law appears to be convincing even more people to leave.
After its approval by China’s National People’s Congress, a national security law for Hong Kong is due to come into effect at the beginning of next year.
This will likely accelerate a process that has been developing in recent years: More and more people choosing to leave the former British colony. Although it has enjoyed autonomous status since the 1997 handover, when China resumed control of the territory, it has witnessed a slow erosion of its freedoms in recent years.
Members of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest movement fear that the new legislation willfurther tighten Beijing’s grip. Many ordinary residents in the financial hub of 7.5 million are also worried that Hong Kong offers little future to them and their families.
Some 50,000 people emigrated in the last two quarters of 2019, a time of protests and escalating violence.
In December, 20,000 people applied to the Hong Kong police for a Certificate of No Criminal Conviction, which is a mandatory document for anybody hoping to emigrate. This was a 60% increase over the same period in the previous year.
Read more: Hong Kong is being ‘robbed of its rights’
‘I want to emigrate’
Josephine, a 30-year-old journalist born in Hong Kong, told DW she had taken part in the protests against the government and the extradition bill that was eventually retracted late last year. She said that she had intended to stay in Hong Kong despite Beijing’s tightening grip. However, she changed her mind overnight after the National People’s Congress’ approval of the national security law for Hong Kong.
“I would never have believed that the residents of Hong Kong would one day become refugees,” she said. “I want to emigrate.”
She said that after the announcement there was a despondent atmosphere in the newsroom where she works. “My colleagues and I were stumped. We had assumed that there would be a security law for Hong Kong sooner or later, but we were surprised that Beijing wanted to push it onto us like this.” She said even some pro-Chinese politicians were taken aback by the move.
‘Beijing wants complete control’
Mr. Chow, who works in a Chinese bank, said he is also pessimistic about Hong Kong’s future and wants to emigrate, ideally with his family to Canada. He told DW he had been thinking of leaving Hong Kong for a long time and the announcement about the new law had solidified his resolve.
“All kinds of offenses could be used to restrict civil rights,” he said. “It will no longer be possible to guarantee freedom of speech at work, at home or online. I am already very cautious about expressing myself in public now.”