[Hong Kong] Expats Unsettled By Most Challenging Year In Decades

22 JUN 2020

After a singularly challenging year for Hong Kong, many expatriates are facing the difficult decision of whether to remain or leave, Bloomberg reports on the current climate.

The choice for Hong Kong’s foreign resident community is stark, particularly for the 90,000 or so people from major economies outside Asia. If they remain, expats face renewed disruptions from the political turmoil at China’s efforts to impose a national security law. But leaving risks trying to relocate while the global economy is crippled by the COVID-19 crisis.

According to surveys and data from local business groups and mobility firms, some expatriates now lean towards the leave option after living through a year of anti-government protests, US-China trade tensions and the most serious viral outbreak since the 2003 SARS crisis. Especially when combined with the national security legislation announced in May. (Link via original reporting)

Once Hong Kong expats tended to work in finance or law for Western companies and enjoyed generous relocation packages. But the group has since diversified, making finding a consensus difficult.

Robert Chipman - chief executive for Hong Kong for global relocation service Asian Tigers Group - said he saw a spike in interest in early 2020 as people chose to leave after eight months of political unrest and the onset of COVID-19.

Mr Chipman is reportedly worried that continuing protests may both prompt expats to leave and persuade those considering a move to Hong Kong to avoid the city, risking its future as an expatriate enclave.

Additionally, the estimated 25,000 American workers in the city face pressure and uncertainty as after the US declared that Hong Kong is no longer largely autonomous from China. A change with the potential to strip the city of its special trading status.

An American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong survey, conducted on June 1 and June 2, discovered that 38 per cent of around 180 members responding were personally considering leaving in the wake of the new national security law. About 30 per cent said the law is prompting their companies to consider moving assets like capital and business operations to other locations. (Link via original reporting)

Issues like the high cost of living in Hong Kong are a factor too. Hong Kong was once again declared the most expensive city in the world for expatriates in the latest survey from global consultancy Mercer. Singapore dropped two places to fifth. (Link via original reporting)

Hong Kong has had success containing the COVID-19. There have been only four deaths reported and just over 1,100 confirmed cases. Until protests resumed in May, it was considered something of a safe haven in 2020. Investors have not abandoned Hong Kong; the territory’s dollar-pegged currency continues to see inflows. (Link via original reporting)

Source: Bloomberg