Lawmakers criticise jobless talent in HK forming shell companies, call for stricter regulations similar to public housing

Chris Sun

25th June 2024 – (Hong Kong) In a recent review conducted by the Legislative Council’s Panel on Manpower, concerns have been raised regarding the demographic skew of talent importation initiatives in Hong Kong. As of May 2024, the city has received over 300,000 applications through various talent schemes introduced towards the end of 2022, of which nearly 190,000 have been approved.

Despite the government’s success in surpassing its three-year target to introduce 105,000 skilled individuals, with nearly 130,000 talents having entered the city, lawmakers expressed concerns over the disproportionate number of mainland Chinese among these numbers. According to data presented during the session, mainland Chinese comprised a substantial portion of the approved applications, with figures from other nations significantly trailing.

Lawmaker Chan Wing-kwong highlighted the stark disparity, noting that from last year to February this year, of the Top Talent Pass Scheme recipients, 43,992 were from mainland China compared to just 524 from the United States—a difference almost 83-fold. This prompted questions about the scheme’s appeal to international talents and suggestions for broadening its reach to attract a more diverse array of global expertise.

The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Chris Sun, responded, stating that while a quarter of the talents who arrived via these programs held foreign passports, the scheme indeed saw a higher influx from the mainland. However, Sun also noted that having overseas experience isn’t solely determined by the passport one holds, as 70% of category C applicants graduated from universities in Europe, America, Australia, or Canada.

Amidst these discussions, concerns were also raised about potential abuses of the system, similar to those seen in public housing. Lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung questioned if the talent schemes required stringent checks akin to those for public housing, particularly highlighting online guides that advise on extending visas without legitimate employment, leading to cases where individuals start shell companies or join insurance firms merely to maintain their visa status.

The government has also tightened its scrutiny over educational credentials following recent incidents of diploma fraud. The Immigration Department now demands not only a university degree certificate but also a professional academic assessment to ensure the legitimacy of educational qualifications.

Amidst these debates, the Legislative Council also discussed the need to balance the importation of foreign labour with the protection of local jobs.