A view of the Hong Kong International Airport on June 30. Photo: Felix Wong
Alice Wu
Alice Wu

Hong Kong exodus: Beijing is certainly not losing sleep over it

  • Hongkongers are free to pronounce ‘one country, two systems’ dead, just as they are free to vote with their feet. But know that their personal feelings have little relevance to the government’s implementation of ‘one country, two systems’
There are no numbers yet, but chances are, many of us know at least a family which has recently called it quits on Hong Kong. And for some of us, it might feel almost apocalyptic.

A few countries’ newly relaxed immigration policies for Hongkongers have encouraged many who might not have considered emigrating otherwise; they never felt they had the option to leave, and so quickly. Besides, the West’s welcome mat may be temporary, so they’d better move when they can.

“Why haven’t the Hong Kong government and Beijing reflected on the reasons behind the exodus?” This is a question that has been asked quite a lot lately.

Unfortunately, the question is irrelevant because it assumes a level of care for individual choices that is simply not there. As a Post report puts it: “Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po shrugged off decisions to leave or stay as ultimately personal in nature”. Instead, Chan was quoted as saying: “We are convinced Hong Kong’s institutional strengths and core competences remain strong.”

In other words, we in Hong Kong are free to disagree and vote with our feet, but imagining the government would be sorry to see some of us go is simply too naive.


BN(O) passport holders flee Hong Kong for new life in the UK, fearing Beijing’s tightening control

BN(O) passport holders flee Hong Kong for new life in the UK, fearing Beijing’s tightening control
And as for Beijing, it’s safe to say little sleep is being lost over the estimated 322,000 Hong Kong residents with British National (Overseas) passports who are likely to take London up on its immigration offer by 2025. After all, there are 1.4 billion people in the whole of China, whose “feelings” will always come first with Beijing.

Those of us who expect our government officials or “Grandpa” Beijing to care are looking for love in the wrong places. It is a delusional, and ultimately self-defeating, exercise.

As of July 1, we have entered our 25th year as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and we are approaching the halfway point of the 50 years of “one country, two systems”. It’s high time for us to be clear-headed about our relationship with our government and the central government.

An expat exodus is looming fast as Hong Kong’s allure fades

Many who have left or are planning to leave feel “one country, two systems” is dead. Well, “one country, two systems” has taken some serious hits. One is free to pronounce it dead, just as one is free to uproot one’s family and move. But our personal feelings have very little relevance to the implementation of “one country, two systems”.

A lot has changed in the last quarter of the century. “One country, two systems” was once touted as the solution to the “Taiwan problem”, just as “the death of Hong Kong” was often predicted before 1997.

For a good part of the first 25 years, Beijing played the role of the mostly hands-off, indulgent grandpa to Hong Kong. The central government avoided direct confrontations and gave us help when we asked for it, such as during the Asian financial crisis and after the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic.

But Hong Kong acted up more and more. Beijing tried to be a strict parent, and it got adolescent pushback.

Beijing is done wooing and holding Hong Kong’s hand. Just look at the pro-establishment camp: there are people who have spent their entire adult lives doing community work and, overnight, with Beijing’s electoral overhaul of Hong Kong, careers built on community work are wiped out. Vice-Premier Han Zheng sat down with Hong Kong delegates on the sidelines of the most recent National People’s Congress in March to tell them that they need to solve the city’s housing problem. Grandpa is done cleaning up after us.

And so this ship is setting sail – into uncharted waters, perhaps, but it is sailing nonetheless. And it would do us a world of good if we could first get over our hurt feelings.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA