Educated, young and wealthy: the thousands of Hong Kongers looking to move to the UK

·3 min read
A young Asian father carrying cute little daughter looking at airplane through window at the airport while waiting for departure
A young Asian father carrying cute little daughter looking at airplane through window at the airport while waiting for departure

Hong Kongers applying to come to Britain are younger, wealthier and more educated than those planning to remain, an Oxford University study has found.

Nearly 90,000 have applied for British visas to escape Chinese rule and are expected to hit 100,000 in the New Year, equivalent to a town the size of Gillingham.

The study, by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, exposing the "brain drain'' from the former British colony found they were predominantly young Hong Kongers, with half born in the 1980s or 1990s.

Compared to those who plan to stay in Hong Kong, potential UK movers were also more likely to have university education (33 per cent versus 22 per cent).

They were more likely to be in full-time employment (60 per cent against 50 per cent) and 90 per cent had at least A-level or post-secondary education.

Dr Peter William Walsh, a researcher at the Migration Observatory, said the UK’s visa scheme appeared to be more attractive to those with the funds and younger Hong Kongers with fewer ties to it.

“The BN(O) route to the UK has already generated significant numbers of applications, but it’s not a particularly cheap option. For a family of three to use this route to get citizenship in the UK would take at least five years and cost about £20,000,” he said.

The system, which offers up to 5.4 million Hong Kongers a five-year visa and a path to permanent British citizenship, was opened on January 31 after China’s new security laws were introduced last year.

Home Office figures show that 88,000 Hong Kongers have applied for Britain’s bespoke five year visa scheme in the 10 months since it was launched.

The survey, the first major study into Hong Kong migration, found that the UK was the preferred option among those who expressed an interest in leaving the country.

A third (33 per cent) placed it as their top destination, ahead of second-place Taiwan (23 per cent), Australia (15per cent) and Canada (11 per cent).

London was the most common choice of destination city, favoured by 42 per cent of potential movers and well ahead of second-place Manchester (12 per cent).

The survey also found that dissatisfaction with a wide range of political, social and economic factors in Hong Kong was much higher among potential UK movers than those who planned to stay behind.

More than half (52 per cent) of potential UK movers were dissatisfied with the credibility of the police and the trustworthiness of the government (57 per cent).

Half (53 per cent) were also dissatisfied with economic factors such as the cost of living in Hong Kong although 63 per cent also said they expected to face a pay cut if they moved to the UK, suggesting better wages were not a primary driver of decisions.

Many also cited prospects for their children as a factor motivating a preference for the UK.

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