Fed up with the ongoing political unrest plaguing their city, four in 10 Hongkongers would relocate overseas if they had the opportunity, a survey has found.

According to the latest poll from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 42% of respondents said they would emigrate if they had the chance, up from 34% recorded in a similar survey in December last year.

The figure is the highest since 2016.

The study, conducted by the university’s Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, showed that around 10% of respondents said they had recently begun to act on their desire to leave.

Among these people, Canada is the most favored destination, followed by Australia and Taiwan.

According to estimates from the Security Bureau, some 7,600 people left the city last year, with 2,400 going to Australia, 1,600 to the US and 1,100 to Canada.

The latest survey involved interviews with 707 people aged over 18 between September 20 and 26.

Political disputes, lack of democracy

Asked what gave them the urge to live abroad, respondents cited “too much political dispute/social cleavage” (27.9%), “no democracy in Hong Kong” (21.5%) and dissatisfaction “with the central government/the totalitarian central government” and a lack of “confidence in central government” (19.5%).

It is worth noting that “overcrowded living conditions” ranked only in fourth place in this year’s survey. Over the past three years, it was listed as the second-biggest reason for people wanting to leave Hong Kong.

The survey also found that the inclination to emigrate was linked to age and educational background. People aged between 18 and 29 and those with a higher-education background were found to be the most inclined to leave the city.

Quality of life

The survey also asked the respondents to grade their perception of Hong Kong’s quality of life on a scale of 0 to 100.  Zero was “very unsuitable,” 100 was “very suitable,” and 50 indicated “in-between.”

The average was 54.4, a significant drop from last year and the lowest in the past three years.

A migration consultation firm said they had received seven times the usual number of inquiries over the past three months from people interested in finding somewhere else to live, Ming Pao Daily reported.

Peggy Lau, sales director of Uni Immigration Consultancy Ltd, said those who inquired varied in age and came from across the political spectrum. They mainly wanted to have an additional citizenship for security and access to better educational opportunities for their children.

Taiwan, Portugal and Ireland were the top three countries her clients were considering, mainly due to their less stringent residency requirements.

Jian, director of Rengo Ltd, said more people requested immigration information for nearby locales such as Taiwan and Malaysia, particularly those with limited budgets, Oriental Daily reported.

Shih Wing-ching, chairman of the Centaline Group, said more middle-class people were seeking information about emigration but he believed most of them were “just checking,” the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

He advised those who want to leave Hong Kong to think twice, as life may not be easy if there are limited jobs available in foreign countries. He said people should try to make more money in Hong Kong before moving abroad.