Carrie Lam dismisses fears of mass exodus from Hong Kong

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  • Photos from the airport show crowds of people leaving for Britain under the new pathway to citizenship for BN(O) passport holders
  • Lam said the Greater Bay Area plan and national security law mean the city has a prosperous future ahead
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Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she isn't worried about people leaving Hong Kong en mass, saying the city goes through periods of emigration. Photo: SCMP/ Dickson Lee

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive brushed off recent scenes at the airport that suggested many residents were leaving the city, adding that she would tell anyone considering leaving that the city would continue to prosper with Beijing’s support and the help of the national security law.

Asked to address the apparent wave of departures at her weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said her government held no official position on the phenomenon.

“Every now and then in the history of Hong Kong, there are such emigration trends,” Lam said.

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“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.”

Lam pointed to the roles laid out for Hong Kong by Beijing under its Greater Bay Area plan – an initiative to integrate the financial hub, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into an economic and business powerhouse – as well as its 14th five-year plan, China’s new development blueprint.

She also cited the Beijing-imposed national security law and the central government’s recent move to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system to ensure only “patriots” ran the city.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the national security law meant Hong Kong had a prosperous future ahead of it. Photo: SCMP/ Nora Tam

“I think this in itself is already an assurance to their confidence,” she said.

“For those who feel a sense of belonging to Hong Kong and are willing to toil away here, this is the best time. But if they choose to leave, this is a personal decision.”

Following the imposition of the security law last year, some concerned residents have left the city for good, with many heading to Britain, which recently established a new pathway to citizenship for locals with British National (Overseas) status.

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In recent weeks, relatives and friends have gathered in the terminal of Hong Kong International Airport to see off those departing, with ground staff checking in lines of passengers loaded with suitcases for flights bound for Britain.

The scenes were particularly striking over the weekend, as departing residents attempted to beat the deadline for Britain’s Leave Outside the Rules scheme, which gives people six months to apply for the necessary BN(O) visa after arriving in the country. The arrangement expired on Monday, meaning those intending to leave now will have to acquire the visa in Hong Kong before they fly.

Lam on Tuesday said the government would uphold Hong Kong residents’ right to enter and leave the city.

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