On Tuesday, the South China Morning Post ran a story about the rising costs of English-language education in Hong Kong, which drew heated debate online.

Among the usual accusations of racism, cultural insensitivity and government indifference, one commenter, XYZ, wrote that "the limited availability and high cost of international-style education in Hong Kong is part of a deliberate government policy to rid the city of bolshie, lower-income expatriates". He or she claimed to have been "told this by someone with excellent sources in government circles".

Interestingly, on the same day, the SCMP ran a story headlined, "Let market drive Beijing exodus, says planner", in which economic incentives were recommended as the means by which to depopulate the congested capital, rather than force. The said planner is advocating the use of economic carrots but might it be the case that us "lower-income expats" (defined as those with household incomes of less than HK$100,000 a month, by XYZ) are being prodded out of Hong Kong with an economic stick?

In the run-up to the handover, there was much talk of the new government ridding the city of its "white trash", but that died down very quickly, perhaps because it was realised Hong Kong would need to remain broadly cosmopolitan to justify its expensive new "Asia's World City" branding.

However, if XYZ is correct, and us low-rent (is that even possible these days?) expats are now no longer welcome, we're going to need a clearer sign - and I don't mean another hike in school fees.