110,000 Expats Quit Hong Kong In 1st Half Of 2022
Expats have been leaving Hong Kong en masse this year. Expats told Business Insider they were frustrated by the city's response to the Omicron wave.
Photo Insert: While other countries relaxed their COVID regulations to move toward co-existing with the virus, Hong Kong instead intensified its policies as the Omicron variant blew up in the city this year.
On top of facing daily disruptions and travel restrictions, they also feared a loss of freedoms as Hong Kong relied heavily on China for policy responses and support, Matthew Loh and Weilun Soon reported.
After seven years of living in Hong Kong, New York native Marty Forth finally had it. The academic arrived in the bustling city at the southern tip of China in 2015 and fell in love with its uniqueness.
"It's a city with a very strong Chinese sense of place and history, yet still a very modern, progressive, clean, and safe city that's a hub for finance, travel, and innovation," he said. Forth soaked up every minute of his first four years in Hong Kong. Even when a bout of turbulent mass protests in 2019 almost brought the city to its knees and sparked months of widespread chaos, Forth stayed on.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic that ripped through Hong Kong in multiple waves. Over the last two years, the city has constantly oscillated between last-minute openings and closures of public venues, though caseloads stayed relatively few and far between.
And while other countries relaxed their COVID regulations to move toward co-existing with the virus, Hong Kong instead intensified its policies as the Omicron variant blew up in the city this year. Its rapid-fire introduction of restrictions prompted residents and experts to call the approach downright illogical.
"The government switched and changed its policy so many times and the decisions are made based on fear, not on evidence. Freedoms have been curtailed as a result," Forth told Insider.
So, on March 8, Forth boarded a one-way flight to New York with his partner and their son. He's one of the hundreds of thousands of expatriates who have deserted the Chinese territory this year.
Once a paradise for foreigners looking to live and work in the heart of Asia, Hong Kong is now bleeding talent at a historic pace.
In the first half of 2022, the city's total population fell by 110,000 – almost double the population loss from the entirety of last year. "You feel a little bit of guilt leaving your friends you've made over seven years behind," Forth said. "But the Hong Kong we're leaving behind isn't the one we moved to anymore."