AmCham survey points to potential exodus of expatriates from Hong Kong

More than 40% of members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong are planning or considering leaving the financial center, with most citing discomfort over a sweeping national security law as a reason, a poll showed on Wednesday.

Legislation imposed by Beijing in 2020, which punishes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces up to life in prison, has further strained relations between the United States and China.

The AmCham survey, to which 325, or 24% of members of the trade organization responded between May 5 and May 9, showed that 42% of them had considered leaving or were planning to leave Hong Kong. Of those planning to move, 3% said they intended to do so immediately, 10% before the end of the summer and 15% before the end of the year, while 48% said they were considering a move within three to five years.

About 62% of those looking to leave checked “the national security law makes me uncomfortable” as one of the reasons. Some 36% expressed concern that the law would impact the quality of their children’s education in the city.

“Before, I never worried about what I said or wrote when I was in Hong Kong,” AmCham said, citing one of the anonymous respondents.

“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.”

Hong Kong officials deny rights and freedoms have been eroded and maintain the city is committed to remaining an open, diverse international financial center, but say China’s national security is a red line.

About 49% of those considering leaving blamed coronavirus-related travel restrictions, around 42% cited pessimism about Hong Kong’s competitiveness and nearly 24% said the city is expensive.

Of those who intended to stay, around 77% cited a good quality of life, around 55% an “excellent” business environment and 48% proximity to the mainland Chinese market.

One respondent reportedly said he thought Hong Kong was much safer than the United States.

“Hong Kong is still an east and west channel and has so much more to offer businesses,” the respondent said.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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