More mainland Chinese parents want children to travel to school in Hong Kong: forum
Online forum finds rise in parents who want youngsters to make lengthy school trips to HK
Mainland parents are increasingly keen on their Hong Kong-born children commuting daily to schools in the city, says the founder of an online forum.
William Zhou, who runs hkbbclub.com - a forum set up in 2009 by mainland parents with children born overseas - said he sensed a significant change in attitude among the forum's registered members, with many more now willing to send their children across the border for study.
"Two years ago, we did a rough survey and found about 2,000 of our member families - most living in the Pearl River Delta - planned to send their children to Hong Kong for education," he said.
"Now I think the number will be much higher. Two years ago the group had 20,000 members. That has grown to 43,000."
Zhou estimated between 20 and 30 per cent of forum members planned to send their children to Hong Kong for schooling, even though that meant a daily commute and even the risk of separation from their children.
He attributed the change to the rapid narrowing of living expenses between the two sides and a new wave of migration among middle-class mainland families looking for better education, cleaner air and a free society.
Zhang said that two years ago many mainland parents went to Hong Kong to give birth mainly to escape the one-child policy. Only a small number planned to send their children back because of the expense and inconvenience. But as the income gap between Hong Kong and Pearl River Delta cities narrowed and the yuan continued to appreciate against the Hong Kong dollar, many now found the plan more affordable.
Mainland mother Sally Wu, who has lived in To Kwan Wan for a year, said: "A downtown Shenzhen flat now costs at least three million yuan [HK$3.8 million]. If you have two such apartments and you sell one of them, the money is easily enough for you to send your children to Hong Kong for study. In fact, many daily necessities in Hong Kong are now cheaper than Shenzhen and Guangzhou."
Wu rented a small flat for HK$4,000 a month and her three-year-old daughter goes to a private kindergarten in Kowloon Tong. She said a school of a similar quality in Shenzhen would cost at least 120,000 yuan a year.
"The main expenses in Hong Kong are rent and tuition fees. But if you compare it with the mainland, it is actually more reasonable and more affordable on the whole," Wu said.
More and more mainland families also want to send their children here because they admire Hong Kong's education and social security system.
Hong Kong-born mainland babies will have no household registration - meaning they will not qualify for social welfare and education benefits on the mainland. This further makes Hong Kong an attractive option.
"When you read horrifying stories of cancer villages across the country, corrupt officials and crackdowns on internet freedom, many well-educated middle-class are worried [about their children's future]," Zhou said.
Many parents wanted to "migrate to a more democratic society, a cleaner environment and better education opportunities".
There is little data on how many of these Hong Kong-born mainland children will one day come to study and settle here.
According to the International Migration Report (2012) released by the Centre for China and Globalisation and Beijing Institute of Technology's law school, more than 150,000 mainlanders obtained overseas citizenship in 2011, making China the world's biggest source of immigrants.
"The rich and educated elites are becoming the main force in the latest round of emigration," the report said. "The percentage of the middle-class in the total emigration group is rising."