9th June 2024 – (Hong Kong) It has been half a decade since the large-scale demonstrations of 2019 brought unrest to the streets of Hong Kong. As we reflect upon this pivotal chapter in the city’s modern history, it is evident that Hong Kong has emerged stronger, more resilient, and firmly rooted in its status as an integral part of China. The tumultuous events of five years ago acted as a stimulus for the revitalisation of stability, the rejuvenation of Hong Kong’s core, and a resolute dedication to advancement, all under the auspices of the central government.

One of the profound lessons gleaned from the 2019 events is the paramount importance of maintaining stability for a prosperous society. Hong Kong’s remarkable economic prowess and standing as a global financial hub have been intricately tied to its reputation for law, order, and security. Preserving this stable foundation has been pivotal in attracting businesses, investors, and top-tier talent from around the world to the city’s shores.

In the years following the unrest, the Hong Kong government, with the unwavering support of the central authorities, has taken resolute actions to reinforce the city’s legal framework and uphold the rule of law. The enactment of the National Security Law in 2020, followed by Hong Kong’s own National Security Law in 2023, played a crucial role in deterring acts of violence, restoring order, and sending an unequivocal message to the international community: Hong Kong remains a secure and attractive destination for investment and business operations.

These measures have not only helped safeguard Hong Kong’s stability but have also fortified its position as a thriving economic hub, poised to contribute to the nation’s overall development and prosperity.

Despite the challenges posed by the global economic landscape, Hong Kong has exhibited remarkable resilience, a testament to the foresight of its policymakers and their commitment to fostering an environment conducive to growth. The city’s gross domestic product (GDP) is forecasted to have expanded by an impressive 3.2% in 2023, solidifying Hong Kong’s status as an economic powerhouse.

Furthermore, Hong Kong’s position as a leading international financial centre remains firmly intact, ranking fourth in the prestigious “Global Financial Centres Index 34” report. The city’s prowess as an innovation hub is also undeniable, as evidenced by its strong performance in the “Global Innovation Index 2023.”

As an indispensable component of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) and a key player in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), Hong Kong is poised to leverage its unique strengths as a “superconnector.” Initiatives such as the digital yuan and the promotion of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices present exciting opportunities for growth and development, further cementing the city’s global relevance.

Hong Kong is experiencing both brain drain and brain gain as part of its changing migration patterns. On the brain drain side, many younger and skilled Hong Kong residents have been emigrating in recent years, particularly to places like the UK, Canada, and Australia. This is driven by factors like political unrest, concerns over freedoms and autonomy, and the imposition of the National Security Law. However, Hong Kong is also seeing significant brain gain through its talent admission schemes that are attracting large numbers of educated professionals from mainland China. Around 95% of recipients of the new Top Talent Pass Scheme have been from the mainland. While this could help offset labour shortages, there are concerns about Hong Kong’s diversity being diluted as it becomes culturally and demographically more aligned with the mainland under China’s integration efforts like the Greater Bay Area plan. Hong Kong seems to be going through a demographic shift that will shape its future identity straddling its global business hub status and tighter ties to China. Through various talent admission schemes, Hong Kong has received over 290,000 applications as of April 2024, with approximately 180,000 approved and over 120,000 talented individuals already residing in the city.

Meanwhile, many Hong Kong residents who were disappointed with the state of affairs in the city and chose to leave, are now facing regrets. This is particularly true for those who moved to the U.K. under the British National Overseas (BN(O)) visa scheme, which has issued over 180,000 visas in the past three years. While the U.K. government has praised the integration of Hong Kong immigrants, many have found it difficult to secure employment, with jobs not matching their skills and qualifications. Additionally, finances have dwindled for many, with over 40% saying their financial stability has worsened due to the high cost of living in the U.K. Despite these challenges, nearly all respondents in a recent survey said they intend to continue living in the U.K.

Meanwhile, the number of Hong Kong residents applying to emigrate to Canada under a special pathway has plunged drastically, with only 455 applications made in 2023, a drop of 97% compared to the previous year. Immigrants in Canada have also been facing tough times, with 42% of immigrant families struggling to make ends meet. Many immigrants have had to start at minimum wage, and some have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. The rate of immigrants leaving Canada has hit a two-decade high, with over 42,000 individuals departing in the first six months of 2023.

Back in the city, Hong Kong has taken meaningful steps to heal the wounds of the past and nurture a more inclusive society, despite the long and arduous path to reconciliation. Initiatives such as rehabilitation programs and career support for those involved in the 2019 protests demonstrate a willingness to extend a helping hand and provide opportunities for redemption.

Academics and experts have called for stronger efforts to reintegrate young people into the fabric of society, recognising their potential and offering them a platform to contribute positively to Hong Kong’s future. By embracing a spirit of reconciliation and inclusivity, the city can harness the energy and talents of its youth, ensuring a brighter and more harmonious tomorrow for all.

The long-term development of Hong Kong within the GBA blueprint and China’s national development strategy requires a multifaceted approach. By leveraging its strengths as an international financial centre, fostering innovation, nurturing a diverse and skilled workforce, and deepening integration with the mainland, Hong Kong can continue to thrive and contribute to the nation’s overall progress.

Undoubtedly, challenges will emerge along the way, but Hong Kong’s resilience and determination have been tested time and again throughout its storied history. By remaining steadfast in its commitment to stability, economic growth, and inclusivity, the city can overcome any obstacle and emerge as a shining example of perseverance and progress on the world stage.