Alex Lo
SCMP Columnist
My Take
by Alex Lo
My Take
by Alex Lo

Mainland migrants needed to counter ageing population

  • Plan proposed by Sun Hung Kai Properties boss Adam Kwok Kai-fai to reduce mainland immigration would have wide local appeal but is politically impossible and demographically unwise

Yet, it would be popular with Hong Kong people, as Kwok, executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties, has suggested.

His idea, as presented to the Guangdong Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, would help ease cross-border tensions. But why stop there?

Why not just ban mainlanders from visiting or living in the city? If you offer that as a real choice, the vast majority within the anti-government protest movement and their supporters would take it in place of universal suffrage.

After all, some of the rallying cries of our protesters and rioters have been “Reclaim Hong Kong” and “Hong Kong is not China” as they wave British and American flags.

Meet the mainland Chinese who are living in fear in Hong Kong

What most foreigners don’t appreciate or refuse to acknowledge is the depths of hatred and resentment within the protest movement and the larger public against all things Chinese, not just the Chinese communist government.

Even Mandarin speakers have been targeted for assaults, though you might get away if you convince your attackers you are from Taiwan.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has dismissed Kwok’s idea, saying we should not blame mainland migrants for social tensions and conflicts in the city.

Even so, it’s widely believed that the government had actually considered a similar plan, but that it was rejected by Beijing. So Lam may have been speaking for the central government rather than stating her own view.

Survey of Hong Kong protesters says 80 per cent back ‘one country, two systems’

Of course, the demographics are against “Hong Kong for Hong Kong people only”. Left to its own devices without mainland immigration, our population will shrink over time. With a typically low birth rate, our ageing population will soon be among the oldest in the world.

One could imagine replacing mainland immigrants with Western expatriates whose countries are so admired by our protesters and ­pan-democrats.

But of course, most expat professionals and investors come to Hong Kong because it’s the most accessible gateway to the mainland economy. A Hong Kong that rejects mainland ties and offers no stability or safety will lose all attractions as an international financial hub.

Any way you cut it, the city’s future lies with the rest of the country. Meanwhile, here’s an idea for Kwok to reduce social tensions and inequalities. How about halving the prices of new SHKP flats?

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ageing city in need of more mainlanders