A man wearing a face mask stands on Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront which faces Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong.
Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images
A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong found that 42% of those polled are considering or planning to leave Hong Kong, and more than half cite their discomfort with the controversial national security law imposed by China.
Various media have reported anecdotes of people or companies leaving Hong Kong as a result of the Beijing crackdown. And the Amcham survey offers insight into the sentiment of the expat community in Hong Kong.
Last year, China bypassed the Hong Kong legislature to impose the National Security Law. The law’s implementation came after large pro-democracy protests rocked the financial center in 2019 and took their toll on its economy. Hong Kong is a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The chamber collected 325 anonymous responses to the survey, or 24% of its members, between May 5 and 9.
About 78% of those surveyed were expats who live in Hong Kong for work but are not from there.
Among those who are considering leaving the city:
- 3% said they intended to do so immediately.
- 10% said it before the end of the summer.
- 15% responded at the end of the year.
- 48% said they plan to leave in the next three to five years.
- The remaining 24% said as soon as they could move their job and / or family.
About 62.3% of those considering leaving cited the National Security Act (NSL) as the reason.
“Before, I never worried about what I said or wrote when I was in Hong Kong,” said an anonymous respondent to the Amcham survey.
“With the NSL that has changed. The red lines are vague and seem arbitrary. I don’t want to continue to fear saying or writing something that might unknowingly get me arrested,” the person said.
Hong Kong is governed under a special framework that promises the city limited autonomy, including independent legislative and judicial power.
The Hong Kong government said last year that the law targets “a very small minority of criminals who threaten national security.” He argued that the legislation “will not affect the legitimate rights and freedoms enjoyed by residents of Hong Kong.”
Some critics disagreed. Former pro-democracy lawmaker Emily Lau told CNBC last month that residents of Hong Kong have become “distressed” and “disillusioned” as some fear the city has lost important freedoms.
Still, a slight majority of respondents – around 58% – in the Amcham survey said they did not plan to leave Hong Kong. Around 76.8% of them cite a good quality of life in the city, while 55.1% say that the business environment is excellent.
“While we plan to stay for now, we are not sure about the long term in light of the political changes that have taken place recently which make HK a less attractive place,” said one respondent.