Greener pastures can quickly wilt

Editorial | Mary Ma 22 Jul 2021

There were once again heart-wrenching scenes at the airport as hundreds of Hongkongers left the SAR in recent days for the United Kingdom.

Monday was the last day for a flight that would land Hongkongers in time for UK admission as non-BNO passport holders and allow them to live and work there for six months as they regularize their status.

Dreams of greener pastures no doubt accompanied them as they headed for their new lives in a country far removed - in more ways than one - from the place most have called home since birth.

A survey by UKHK, a group that helps newly arrived Hongkongers in the UK, found that more than half - 55.7 percent - of the 1,012 respondents have yet to start looking for a job after arriving in the country.

The survey, carried out between June 1 and 21, found that 60 percent will immigrate or are already there with their children, while more than 10 percent will bring their parents along.

Many sold their flats in Hong Kong - the world's most stratospheric real-estate market - with 60 percent of respondents reporting assets of over 200,000 (HK$2.14 million).

That might sound like a substantial sum with which to begin their new lives, but it might have to stretch a lot further than they anticipate or have planned for.

As of the end of March, the Home Office had received 34,300 applications for the new visa and it predicted about 150,000 Hongkongers would arrive in the UK in the first year.

Many parallels are being drawn to the pre-1997 exodus from Hong Kong, which saw hundreds of thousands of professionals leaving to secure second passports.

Many kept their families in Hong Kong before eventually returning to once again enjoy the low tax rates, superb infrastructure, magnificent scenery and world-famous cuisine that, to this day, mark Hong Kong as a place apart.

But, unlike the second-passport seekers of pre-1997, many of today's BNO holders lack skills that are in demand.

Given the sheer number of eligible BNO holders and their dependants, the bar has been lowered and many will face major hurdles finding work and fitting in to a new life in a new country in a new world.

A couple of days ago, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that now is the best time for those who have a sense of belonging and are willing to work hard in Hong Kong as the city has a "gorgeous prospect," with endless opportunities in the Greater Bay Area.

No place in the world is perfect but, despite the enormous challenges it faces, Hong Kong without doubt remains a place of increasing opportunities.

They say that home is where the heart is - and people should think long and hard before deciding to quit, probably forever, a place that they could soon come to sorely miss.

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