Migration consultants have seen a sharp rise in interest from Hong Kong citizens following recent mass protests against a controversial proposal that would allow extradition to China.
John Hu, director of John Hu Migration Consulting, said his office has been fielding 100 calls a day from people enquiring about gaining citizenship abroad — almost three times the number of calls he was receiving before the protests started.
Even before the recent surge, Mr Hu’s consultancy said he had seen a “constant” increase in inquiries since the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests calling for universal suffrage in the Chinese territory blocked roadways for more than three months.
“Certainly the political pressure on Hong Kong citizens has activated them to consider immigration overseas. In the past five years, we’ve been having double-digit growth in our sales volume,” he said, adding that the top choices are Australia, Canada, the UK and US with increasing interest in other European countries.
Concerns over Beijing’s growing influence in Hong Kong spurred Henry Lau, 43, a lifestyle journalist, to apply for an investment visa for his family to move to Prince Edward Island on Canada’s east coast in October. He says he fears Hong Kong’s education system is becoming more like that of China’s and wants to ensure his children learn the values he grew up with.
“What’s happened in these past few months was foreseeable,” he said, referring to the government’s attempt to push through the bill and the huge public condemnation it attracted. “I love my home so much, I love Hong Kong so much, I love my friends so much, but when you have your next generation, you have a responsibility to take care of them and to deliver the best environment.”
Canada, which is one of the most popular destination countries according to the migration consultants, approved 1,525 residency applications from Hong Kong in 2018, a 12 per cent increase over the previous year, when 1,360 residency applications were approved, according to government data. The number was unchanged from 2016 but represented a huge jump on the 895 approved in 2015.
Taiwan has drawn increasing interest in recent years through its introduction of a more affordable investor visa. Official statistics show 231 people from Hong Kong secured permanent residency there through investment visas in 2018, up more than 20 per cent from a year earlier and a steep rise on the 28 people who secured permanent residency in 2015.
Hong Kong government figures show the number of people applying for police background checks for applications to study or reside abroad rose 4 per cent in 2018, the third consecutive year in which there had been a rise.
The recent upswing in interest is different to the “crazy” rush to leave ahead of the 1997 handover from British to Chinese sovereignty when people would queue up for help to move to countries they knew little about, said Margaret Chau, of Goldmax Immigration Consulting. But Ms Chau said she had noticed an increase in interest since June 9 and since 2012, Goldmax has seen business grow 20-30 per cent growth each year.
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