Hong Kong housing

From Hong Kong IT worker to Canadian plumber: the path of those seeking escape from ‘hopeless’ city

More relaxed lifestyle and bigger homes are the main draw for some Hongkongers who seek greener pastures abroad

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 4:34pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 11:13pm

The determination of Hongkongers who say they want to avoid their city’s “hopeless future” has led to some taking up menial jobs to earn a foreign citizenship for a new life elsewhere.

In the case of a 40-year-old IT worker, who declined to be named, this could mean being a plumber in Canada.

The man, who lived in the city for almost two decades and holds a Hong Kong identity card, had made plans to ditch his office job and move to Toronto. He had already obtained Canadian citizenship.

Hong Kong’s doctors and nurses head for new lives in Australia, Canada and Britain, as 24,300 residents emigrate in 2017

He is applying for his Hong Kong wife and 11-year-old son to join him.

“We are doing this mostly for my son,” he said. “It is going to be a new start, and we do not see a future for him in Hong Kong.”

We are doing this mostly for my son. We don’t see a future for him here
IT worker intending to migrate

The family made the decision last year, in the same period Hong Kong saw a five-year high of 24,300 residents seeking greener pastures abroad, according to the latest data from the Census and Statistics Department.

In past few months, the middle-aged man has been receiving training to become a plumber or construction worker. He said he believed such skills would help him get employed in Toronto in case he could not land a desk job.

The family intends to give up their monthly household income of about HK$100,000 (US$12,800) and their 800 sq ft flat in Hong Kong. They said they would live in a 3,000 sq ft house with a garden in Canada.

The couple said they wanted their child to grow up in a more spacious environment where he can have a happy childhood and enjoy an education system with less pressure.

The man also said he felt that political freedom in the city was becoming more restricted, citing the oath-taking saga that led to the disqualification of lawmakers in the Legislative Council.

“When we are not even allowed to choose our own legislators, what kind of freedom are we enjoying here?” he said.

Number of Hongkongers migrating to Canada hits 20-year high, stretching back to handover in 1997

Other than favoured destinations such as Canada, America, Australia and Britain for migrating Hongkongers, neighbouring Taiwan is also becoming increasingly popular, especially for those in the younger generation.

The self-ruled island’s proximity, similar culture and weather, as well as lower cost of living are among pull factors.

Chih Chan, 29, a journalist who moved to Taipei in December 2015, said he felt hopeless about the future of Hong Kong with its poor living conditions and “no real democracy”.

“Those who opt for Taiwan are usually not very ambitious career-wise. There is no need to make big money. We just want a [better lifestyle] and a more relaxed working environment,” Chan said.

“Young people who migrate here can enjoy a very simple life. They can sustain a living by opening a small cafe. Imagine how hard it is to rent a place and start a business in Hong Kong,” Chan said.

He said since many Hongkongers often travelled to Taiwan multiple times a year, it was easier for them to fit into the culture and adopt the lifestyle and language as compared with Western countries.