So half of our youth want to leave Hong Kong? We need to make sure they have reasons to stay
In the wake of a survey showing 57 per cent of young people under 30 would emigrate if they had the chance, it’s our duty to listen to their problems
My friend George helps people move their pets to their new homes when they emigrate. In the past year, his email inbox has been overflowing and his phones have been ringing non-stop. For every job he takes on, he has to turn down a couple of other requests.
His anecdotal account is borne out by a new survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
An astonishing 40 per cent of Hong Kong people want to leave. Conducted last month, the survey polled 710 local residents aged 18 or older, with 38.9 per cent saying they would emigrate if they had the chance. But only 10.9 per cent of those who expressed this hope had made concrete plans to do so.
Younger people want to leave the most. Fifty-seven per cent of those aged 18 to 30 said they wanted to leave, compared with just 26 per cent of those aged 51 or above.
Taiwan is the most popular destination, with 16.3 per cent of respondents picking the island. Australia and Canada came in second and third.
Does this mean we are facing another wave of emigration like before the 1997 handover? That’s not the case yet, according to the numbers. About 7,000 people emigrated last year, down from 9,800 in 2005. The Security Bureau figures are based on the number of applications for a certificate of no criminal conviction, which is needed for immigration by many countries.
What the survey does indicate is that many people, especially the young, are unhappy about Hong Kong. But we know that already. The reasons cited for their unhappiness in the survey include a dysfunctional government, poor living conditions and major political and social conflicts.
There are two major narratives about the sources of our discontent. The young, the localists and the pan-democrats point the finger at the government and Beijing. Others claim it’s our increasingly radicalised politics that makes business and normal life difficult for everyone.
Both sides are right. We are making life difficult for ourselves. But for those who belong firmly to the middle class or above and who are entering middle age or retirement, they will probably do fine. It’s the young people who are starting life and careers that we have to take care of, however much we may disagree with them. Their future is our responsibility.