Influx of Mainland Chinese Immigrating to Hong Kong Is What the CCP Wants: Experts

The first million-person demonstration in Hong Kong on June 9, 2019 shocked Beijing. From then on, Beijing began to brew a ‘once for all’ solution for Hong Kong

News Analysis

Since the National Security Law in 2020, an emigration wave has appeared in Hong Kong. To tackle talent loss in Hong Kong, the authorities launched multiple talent schemes. According to some China experts, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long brewed a “retain Hong Kong without Hongkongers” plan, which they believe is currently being implemented.

On April 30, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu stated at a press conference that about 110,000 talents have come to Hong Kong through various talent schemes as of the end of March. Among them, the Top Talent Pass Scheme (TTPS) received about 77,000 applications, of which about 62,000 were approved. Mr. Lee estimated that the TTPS could bring about HK$34 billion ($4.35 billion) in direct economic contribution to Hong Kong annually, equivalent to about 1.2 percent of the local GDP.

Mr. Lee also mentioned that the talents under the TTPS in Hong Kong are mainly engaged in management and professional work, with a median income of about HK$50,000 ($6,393). Some even earn up to HK$200,000 ($25,571) or more. Many of them are accompanied by spouses, with over 21,000 spouses coming to Hong Kong last year alone. He stated that these spouses are generally young, some have also started to enter the workforce, mostly engaged in higher-tech jobs, with a median monthly income of about HK$30,000 ($3,836).

Two-Thirds of TTPS Applicants Chinese Nationals

The TTPS first appeared in Mr. Lee’s policy address in October 2022. In the report, Mr. Lee admitted that Hong Kong had lost about 140,000 of its local labor force in the past two years. He proposed four measures to attract foreign talents, including launching the TTPS, streamlining the General Employment Policy, and the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals.

At the end of 2022, Hong Kong authorities formally started accepting applications for the TTPS. Within just seven weeks of its launch, over 10,000 applications were received, and over 7,700 were approved. Chris Sun Yuk-han, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare Bureau, stated that among the over 10,000 applications, two-thirds came from mainland China, and one-third came from overseas.

He also emphasized that it is difficult to distinguish where the applicants from overseas are from, as they could also be Chinese nationals.

According to the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s website, the TTPS “seeks to attract top talents with rich work experience and good academic qualifications from all over the world to explore opportunities in Hong Kong. These top talents include high-income and graduates from the world’s top universities.”

HK Faces Serious Talent Loss

Since the implementation of the National Security Law in July 2020, Hong Kong has witnessed a new wave of emigration, with hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers emigrating overseas.

The number of Hong Kong students who have left is also significant. According to the Report on Student Enrollment Statistics, Hong Kong lost nearly 68,000 primary and secondary school students from September 2019 to September 2022, including 27,000 losses from September 2021 to September 2022 alone.

In comparison, during the academic year from September 2018 to September 2019, before the anti-extradition movement erupted, the net decrease in the number of primary and secondary school students in Hong Kong was 2,429. That is to say, in the past three years, the number of primary and secondary school students lost in Hong Kong has increased by more than ten times, and the attrition rate has increased from 0.35 percent to 3.99 percent.

The dropout wave has also spread to kindergartens. In the past year ending September 2022, at least 6,500 kindergarten students did not continue their studies in Hong Kong, with a dropout rate of about 6.31 percent, reaching a new high in recent years. Some media pointed out that 80 percent (5,154 people) of them dropped out before moving from kindergarten (K2) to higher class (K3), with a dropout rate as high as 9.69 percent, equivalent to one out of ten K2 students choosing not to continue their studies in Hong Kong.

From the launch of the British National (Overseas) Visa Scheme to the third quarter of 2023, over 190,000 Hongkongers have applied. Based on the current trend, the number is expected to exceed 200,000 in 2024.

A survey by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute in March 2022 showed that 35 percent of respondents cited “personal freedom” as the reason for emigration, while 58 percent said they had no confidence in the future political environment.

‘Retain Hong Kong Without Hongkongers’

Ji Da, a U.S.-based political commentator, said that most of the older generations of anti-Communist individuals in Hong Kong came from mainland China through various channels, and the CCP did not care about their departure. For the CCP, it is easy to fill the gap in Hong Kong by exporting some from the large population in mainland China.

In fact, many years ago, the CCP began to plan to replace Hong Kong elites with mainland Chinese, he told The Epoch Times. During Tung Chee-hwa’s tenure as Chief Executive of Hong Kong, pro-Beijing figures proposed the idea of “population replacement,” using “mainland elites” to replace local Hongkongers.

Former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa attends a closing session in Beijing, on March 20, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)
Former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa attends a closing session in Beijing, on March 20, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Later, the CCP’s official media also extensively proposed the concept of “new Hong Kongers,” dividing Hongkongers into two categories: old and new. The idea of “out with the old, in with the new” began to spread, implying the removal of original Hongkongers.

Cheng Xiang, a commentator and expert on China issues, argued that the “retain Hong Kong without Hongkongers” policy had begun to brew in 2019. In his series of articles, “The Fall of Hong Kong,” Mr. Cheng described how the policy destroyed the city in two years.

“The scale of the first million-person demonstration in Hong Kong on June 9 of that year [2019] shocked Beijing. From then on, Beijing began to brew the ‘once for all’ solution to the Hong Kong issue,” reads the article.

Three weeks later, on June 27, 2019, the CCP authorities published a long article titled “Warning to the anti-China chaos forces in the United States: Stop immediately! — Smash the Hong Kong Color Revolution and resolutely defend national unity,” which compiled some think tanks’ reports on the Hong Kong issue to the CCP’s Central Committee and proposed countermeasures.

Mr. Cheng believes that those measures formulated the “bottom-line thinking” (a concept frequently mentioned by CCP leader Xi Jinping) of “retaining Hong Kong without Hongkongers” and that if the CCP really implements the top ten suggestions proposed, “Hong Kong will be completely finished.”

Two months after the article was published, the CCP held a three-day meeting in Shenzhen on Aug. 7, conveying the “once for all” plan to a group of pro-Beijing Hong Kong establishment figures.

At the meeting, Zhang Xiaoming, then director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, “reported the important spirit of the Central Government on stabilizing the current situation in Hong Kong,” which mentioned: “The Central Government will never sit idly by… the Central Government has sufficient means and strong enough power to quell various possible disturbances quickly.”

This official statement is identical to the tone of the June 27 article. At the end of 2019, Mr. Cheng said internal sources informed him that the article was being circulated within the Hong Kong authorities and that “many of its recommendations may be put into practice.”

That’s how the “retain Hong Kong without Hongkongers” policy came about, according to Mr. Cheng.

Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. (Dale De La Rey/AFP via Getty Images)
Riot police detain a man as they clear protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. (Dale De La Rey/AFP via Getty Images)

Policy Being Implemented

On May 23, 2020, the pro-Beijing Hong Kong media Oriental Daily published a commentary titled “National Security Law Immediately Implemented to Rid Hong Kong of Rioters,” which first revealed the CCP’s policy of “retain Hong Kong without Hongkongers.”

“…assuming that there are two million people in Hong Kong who support the opposition. If these people do not recognize ‘one country,’ they should emigrate with their families. Goodbye to them. Don’t stay in Hong Kong to cause trouble,” reads the article.

The article also stated that after these two million people leave, those who remain must love China and Hong Kong and respect the “One country” policy.

“The central government can take advantage of this opportunity to completely reform administrative, legislative, judicial, educational, housing, and other problems, implementing the ‘retain Hong Kong without Hongkongers’ [policy],” it reads.

Mr. Ji noted that shortly afterward, the CCP implemented the National Security Law in Hong Kong, followed by a series of cleanup actions against the pro-democracy camp.

“For the CCP, Hong Kong has an extremely important strategic position,” he said. “Now that there is an emigration wave in Hong Kong, the CCP seizes the opportunity to replace the population. ‘Retain Hong Kong without Hongkongers’ is being implemented.”

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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