The number of people moving abroad has plunged to its lowest level in a decade, reflecting public confidence in post-handover Hong Kong, observers say. Security Bureau figures obtained yesterday show 19,300 people emigrated between January and November this year - compared with an exodus of about 60,000 people a year in the early 1990s. City University professor of political science Joseph Cheng Yu-shek said the drop - and the return last year of about 130,000 emigrants - showed growing confidence in the SAR. 'Political uncertainty and worry about China is not a factor any more,' he said. 'China has demonstrated a very straight, hands-off policy and, while the economy is in bad shape, you can't blame this on China.' More than 30,000 people emigrated from Hong Kong last year and about 40,000 left in 1996. Emigration peaked in 1992, with 66,200 people leaving to settle abroad. Professor Cheng said nervousness about the handover had led to increased emigration in the late 1980s and the 1989 Tiananmen massacre was the last straw for many. 'The Tiananmen incident presented a major shock to Hong Kong people and a lot of people made plans to leave,' said Professor Cheng. An official with the Consulate-General of Canada - one of the most popular destinations for those leaving - said the number of Hong Kong arrivals there peaked in 1993. Consul for Public Affairs Jennifer May said about 150,000 Hong Kong people had moved to Canada in the past 15 years. 'In the run-up to the handover, it was phenomenal, but now it's down to what we would consider a normal level,' she said. Other countries popular with Hong Kong emigrants were Australia, New Zealand and the United States, whose consulates yesterday reported sharp falls in the number of SAR arrivals in the past year. A Security Bureau spokesman said this was mainly because the handover had gone 'remarkably well'. 'Our social, political and economic systems have remained unchanged - there is no strong incentive for Hong Kong people to leave their home to settle elsewhere,' he said. The spokesman said that the emigration rate was expected to remain low next year. Professor Cheng said the economic climate was making life a struggle, but he did not expect it to spur anyone to emigrate. 'Most people understand that there are no greener pastures overseas.'