What kind of future awaits Hong Kong amid official apathy over exodus?
- Carrie Lam speaks of a prosperous future while the city faces a demographic emergency
- How does she plan to replenish a population declining by the thousands? And, if there are more opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, why would mainlanders come?
Asked at a press briefing last week about the exodus, Lam said the government held no official position. “Every now and then in the history of Hong Kong, there are such immigration trends,” she said. “But if you really ask me to say something to those who are seeking to emigrate or have already emigrated, I would tell them Hong Kong has a prosperous future.”
Paradoxically, the supposed selling points she touted are precisely the reason some have decided to quit Hong Kong for good. They see their freedoms and opportunities being eroded by Beijing’s direct intervention in the city’s affairs or do not want their children being educated in a particular way.
Lam serves at Beijing’s pleasure, so such comments are to be expected. It would be a sad indictment of the state of governance, though, if saying what mainland officials want to hear is more important than placating people who are obviously dissatisfied.
Surely the latest fertility rate of 869 births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, down from 1,051 in 2019 – the replenishment level is 2,100 – should have some bearing? The median age of 45.5 years and rising, as of 2019, which is straining financial and public health resources, surely also matters more?
There are obviously those who crow about the departure of people guided by integrity or idealistic beliefs. Whether by upbringing, coercion, a desire for personal gain or lack of education, they do not see the value of a pluralistic society, cultural diversity, the right of free expression or political freedom.
Perhaps they have not moved beyond the type of China where emperors ruled and expected their subjects to be obedient and submissive, respectful and cooperative. They are only too pleased to see jobs and homes being vacated for them to take, places in schools opening up for their children and the creation of a political environment free of debate and discussion.
Any right-minded leader would say a city’s or country’s future lies in its young people and that they should be made welcome.
There is still hope for Hong Kong. But, to my mind, the course it has been set on needs dramatic revision if the future is to be as rosy as officials are painting it. Rosy for whom, is my question.
Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post