HK offers shelter to expatriates fleeing Tokyo after disaster

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am

Hong Kong has become a haven for expatriates fleeing Tokyo in the wake of the crisis in Japan - among them finance professionals in need of trading licences and children who should be in school.

The city's Securities and Futures Commission said it took the initiative, after the earthquake and the nuclear scare, to contact institutions that might wish to relocate trading staff and said it would grant them temporary or provisional licences.

'In response, we have received indications that around 200 individuals who require such licences to be able to work in Hong Kong will be relocated here,' a spokesman for the watchdog said.

He said 50 formal applications had been received by the end of last week and 30 licences granted.

Hong Kong requires licences for people dealing in and advising on securities or future contracts, or for providing automated trading services, the market regulator said.

Although no international banks have closed their operations in Tokyo, some of their expatriate employees have left Japan.

A manager with a US bank who wanted to remain anonymous said some senior expatriate bankers based in Tokyo asked to leave because they did not feel safe. But the number was small, because many senior bankers did not regard the situation as threatening.

Not all who leave opt for Hong Kong. 'Those who go to Hong Kong are senior bankers who work in equities, debt trading and other areas,' the bank manager said.

Some children of expatriates based in Japan are also relocating to Hong Kong, at least temporarily.

The French International School (FIS) in Hong Kong put up a notice that special arrangements were being made for students coming from the Tokyo FIS. A spokesman for the school said that 75 students - 40 from secondary and 35 from primary - were already taking classes in Hong Kong. He said tuition fees would be waived until April 1, although students would be charged for food, travel and supplies.

'Following the crisis in Japan, several French families have left Tokyo in a hurry and are in Hong Kong temporarily,' the FIS notice read. 'As a measure of solidarity and in order that students of the French school in Tokyo can continue their education while they wait in Hong Kong, the FIS has established exceptional circumstances and simplified temporary reception from the [kindergarten].'

Simon Walton, principal of the Japanese International School, said they did not have the extra room for Japanese families fleeing the disaster, but had received many inquiries from Japanese people overseas.

Patsy Chan, director of communications at the Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel, said they had received bookings and inquiries from overseas Japanese looking for one to several rooms in Hong Kong. The hotel is fully booked from today until the end of the month.

Daf Marquez, at the front desk of Langham Place, said the hotel had also seen an increase in Japanese tourists. Those already in Hong Kong are extending their stay. The hotel has been fully booked for a week and will be for the rest of the month.

Additional reporting by Chris Ip