There are many “refugees” fleeing Hong Kong – from the barely controlled pandemic and its many related restrictions of movement and business – to the much safer and less restricted mainland. But they are travelling in high numbers, and legally. Unsurprisingly, they are rarely reported in the foreign press, which much prefers the narrative of “political refugees” – or rather fugitives from Hong Kong law – escaping persecution or worried locals emigrating pre-emptively. The fact is that there are movements in both directions. In the first week of December when the new wave of Covd-19 cases was hitting a peak, more than 31,000 Hong Kong residents left for the mainland, Immigration Department figures show. A total of 50,500 went to the mainland in November. While authorities have yet to reopen the border to Hong Kong, many locals are willing to put up with quarantine and pay for it rather than staying in the gloomy city. Meanwhile, more Hong Kong people are considering work on the mainland, including government jobs. A total of 446 candidates from Hong Kong and Macau last month took a written test run by the Shenzhen government to compete for just five civil service openings. The five jobs were part of an initiative under the Greater Bay Area plan to integrate southern Chinese cities into a regional economic engine of growth. Foreign politicians and pundits have been predicting an exodus of Hong Kong people moving to Western countries. They may be right in the short term. But as the Chinese economy takes off to become the world’s largest in the next few years and the southern region emerges as a global economic and technological powerhouse, the migration trends will inevitably be for Hong Kong people seeking their fortunes and opportunities north of their border. Sharp rise in Hongkongers crossing border to flee Covid-19 surge Mainland authorities are already preparing for easier channels to allow locals to work, live and seek education in GBA-designated cities. But it’s not just about economic incentives. Hong Kong people need to be encouraged to develop a national identity and belonging. To this end, more quality civil service jobs should be open to them. For those who have proved their talent, commitment and loyalty, there should be a clear path for them to become members of the Chinese Communist Party. Hong Kong youngsters should also be allowed to volunteer to join the People’s Liberation Army, to give them a stake in the nation’s defence.