THE number of Hong Kong people emigrating to Canada has dropped almost 40 per cent in the past 10 months. The Commission for Canada said it was because a big backlog of visa applications had been dealt with. 'It's true, the numbers are down. That reflects the backlog from post-1989 which has now been cleared,' said the commission's director of public affairs Gregory Shea. 'Post-Tiananmen, it took two to four years to work through the system. Now it only takes about six months. 'So many people landed in Canada last year, we had expected a drop this year.' But he said applications for visas to emigrate had risen this year. 'The traditional high interest in Canada is continuing. We expect it to continue next year,' he said. Up to the end of October, the number of Hong Kong migrants to Canada dropped to 21,002 from 34,890 for the same period in 1994. The figure for the whole of last year was 43,453. Immigration expert Dr Ronald Skeldon, of Hong Kong University, said last year's level was probably artificially high. 'We're probably moving towards a more normal pattern. Migration to Canada has been extremely high over the past two to three years. So many of the people who wanted to go have probably gone,' he said. 'I don't think we could say Canada's becoming less popular. It's just part of the whole process of migration. We expect it to fluctuate.' Drew Vella, executive director of migration consultants PGS International, expected the total figure for 1995 to fall to around 25,000. 'This would mean the figure would still be down around 30 per cent overall. The figure is usually around 30,000 to 35,000 for a normal year. 'I think it's a blip. Next year will probably show an upturn. Canada's economy is coming up, Hong Kong's is going down. This may have an effect,' he said. Up to the end of August this year, 15,153 visas were issued for Hong Kong residents. For 1994 overall, the figure was 32,551. Canada plans to accept about 2.5 per cent more immigrants and refugees in 1996, with greater emphasis on skilled workers who can adapt to changing job markets. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Sergio Marchi this week tabled Canada's 1996 Immigration Plan in the House of Commons, envisaging 195,000 to 220,000 immigrants and refugees next year.