BANGKOK – Hong Kong’s population has seen an alarming decline over the past 12 months, as people leave in the wake of the pandemic and the city’s political turmoil.
According to figures released by the Department of Census and Statistics, Hong Kong’s population declined by 1.2%, equivalent to 89,200 people. This is the biggest decrease in Hong Kong’s population in 60 years. AFP told.
It cracked down on political dissidents following anti-government protests in 2019 after Beijing imposed a national security law on the city.
Casey Wong, a visual artist and activist from Hong Kong, recently relocated to Taiwan, citing the far-reaching effects of the security law. He told VOA over the phone that he wanted to live in a place that had “100% freedom of expression.” “Taiwan provides that opportunity for me,” he said.
One of Hong Kong’s best known artists, Wong, 51, is known for his penchant for social activism and the visual arts involving politics. But he went unnoticed by Beijing, as his name appeared in the state-controlled newspaper Ta Kung Pao – considered China’s wanted list for security law breakers.
After seeing dozens of lawmakers arrested under the security law, Wong believes the law’s so-called “red line” in Hong Kong has become so vague it has become impossible to live with.
“People are saying that this is no longer the Red Line, it is the Red Sea. This is an area you cannot escape from,” he said.
Wong described how supporters were being targeted for wearing a black T-shirt and a yellow face mask. The two colors are associated with the pro-democracy movement, and wearing them is seen as a way of protest against the government.
Supporters of the movement have also used other methods, such as publicly reading Apple Daily’s pro-democracy newspaper before its June shutdown.
Final Edition: Hong Kong’s Apple Daily Signs Off Million-Copy Run . with
The pro-democracy newspaper prints its final edition at midnight, when a national security law issue puts it out of business
A government spokesman said the high number of people leaving the city is not necessarily all migrants and population decline There is also a lack of new arrivals in a Hong Kong-based newspaper, reports the South China Morning Post.
Additionally, Hong Kong has also suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, and although the city has recorded only 12,000 cases with 200 deaths, strict quarantine measures remain in place.
The UK’s offer of citizenship to millions of Hong Kong residents has contributed to the abandonment of thousands, data shows.
Following the activation of the security law, the British government announced that it would expand the rights of British National Overseas, or BNO, passport holders in Hong Kong, with approximately 3 million residents eligible. The scheme allows Hong Kong residents born before 1997 a “passage to citizenship” after five years.
British government estimates estimate that up to 300,000 could apply for migration by 2026, with 34,000 having already applied between January and March.
A Hong Kong resident told VOA that she recently relocated to Taiwan, but there is also a BNO option.
Jenny, who is not her real name, said she was arrested during protests in 2019 and decided to leave Hong Kong last July for fear of jail.
“I’m not sure whether I’ll get a fair trial or not,” she said.
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau recently told the VOA in an email that people were not being targeted based on their political or professional affiliations.
“Any law enforcement action taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies is based on evidence, strictly in accordance with the law, of the acts of persons or entities concerned, and has nothing to do with their political stance, background or occupation. It would be contrary to the rule of law to suggest that people or entities of certain sectors or professions may be above the law, the bureau said.
Dozens of lawmakers and activists are facing prison under the security law in Hong Kong, but many managed to escape abroad.
Hong Kong’s mini parliament, Ted Hui, a former MP on the Legislative Council, left for Australia in late 2020. He was facing nine charges and believes he was being investigated under the Security Act.
“Over the past year, I feel the intensity getting stronger and stronger and the level of enforcement increasing. There is no doubt about it for me now, a year after the introduction of NSL, 100% it is one country two systems. There is death, the total collapse of Hong Kong independence. No autonomy at all,” Hui told VOA in June.
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The political climate in Hong Kong has also pressured civil society groups to close. The Civil Human Rights Front disbanded last week. The group was responsible for some of the biggest street protests in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s professional teachers union also dissolved earlier this month after the government severed ties with the union, accusing it of spreading anti-Beijing and anti-government sentiment.
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The education sector has come under scrutiny since the security law was passed, and schools in Hong Kong have been ordered to remove materials that may violate the law.
One teacher, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told the VOA that there are concerns that an “investigation” could be launched if umbrellas are used during practical activities in the classroom. Umbrellas were deployed by protesters during street protests and became symbolic during the pro-democracy movement.
Another teacher quit his role at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, citing fears of self-censorship and being misreported when discussing texts such as George Orwell’s.
“I stayed at the university because I felt there was no way we could have a class discussion like we used to before the national security law,” the teacher told VOA.