Is this the end of the road for Hong Kong expat professionals?

Published:  19 Feb at 6 PM
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Is the Wuhan coronavirus the last straw for Hong Kong’s reputation as expat heaven?

Expat parents who’ve stayed in the city over the past six months’ increasingly violent protests are finally giving up and leaving for fear of the coronavirus. Schools are closed again, the situation is becoming even more unstable and the city government is being accused of mishandling its reaction to the fast-spreading virus. As a result, relocation specialists are reporting a spike in enquiries.

Hong Kong has always been a hub for expatriate professionals who’ve traditionally played an outsized role in the legal, financial and service industry sectors, helping the island to become a world centre for global business. Some 700,000 non-Hong Kong Chinese and foreigners account for just under 10 per cent of the population, with half from Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines. The British and American expatriate presence totals close to 50,000.

Although the majority of expatriate professionals decided to stay and wait out the outcome of the recent protests, the threat of the coronavirus has caused a shift in expat sentiment, especially amongst those who have families. Many are fearing the ongoing political stalemate may end in even more instability, and the current 62 confirmed cases of the virus has seen expats afraid to leave their homes as well as shortages of basic foodstuffs and necessities.

It’s not just those who’ve left or who’re planning to leave that poses a threat to Hong Kong’s survival as a business and financial hub, it’s the fact that relocation agencies are reporting a distinct lack of professional interest in any job offers based in the city. The local French and British chambers of commerce are now warning of a threatening exodus of citizens as well as expats and their families which may spell the end of the city as a global power. It seems that, once Hong Kong’s major talents are lost, it’ll be almost impossible to reclaim them.
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