More than 40% of the members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong plan to or are considering leaving the financial hub, with most citing discomfort with a sweeping national security law as one reason, a survey showed on Wednesday.
The legislation imposed by Beijing in 2020, which punishes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, has further strained relations between the United States and China.
The AmCham survey, to which 325, or 24% of the business organisation’s members responded between May 5 and May 9, showed 42% of them had considered leaving or planned to leave Hong Kong. Of those planning to move out, 3% said they intended to do so immediately, 10% said before the end of the summer and 15% before year-end, while 48% eyed a move within three to five years.
About 62% of those looking to leave ticked “the national security law makes me uncomfortable” as one of the reasons. Some 36% cited concerns that the law would impact the quality of their children’s education in the city.
“Previously, I never had a worry about what I said or wrote when I was in Hong Kong,” AmCham quoted one of the anonymous respondents as saying.
“That has changed. The red lines are vague and seem to be arbitrary. I don’t want to continue to fear saying or writing something that could unknowingly cause me to be arrested.”
Hong Kong authorities deny rights and freedoms have been eroded and maintain that the city is committed to remaining an open, diverse, international finance centre, but say China’s national security is a red line.
About 49% of those considering leaving blamed coronavirus-related travel restrictions, some 42% cited pessimism over Hong Kong’s competitiveness and almost 24% said the city was expensive.
Among those who intended to stay, about 77% cited a good quality of life, some 55% an “excellent” business environment and 48% the proximity to the mainland China market.
One respondent was quoted as saying they believed Hong Kong was much safer than the United States.
“Hong Kong is still a conduit of the east and west and it has so much more to offer to businesses,” the respondent said.
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