A large number of people have left Hong Kong not only due to political unrest but also strict COVID-19 policies. In the past year, more than 100,000 people left, a record.
The exodus includes many commercial and banking workers, who form the soul of the city. Hong Kong is one of the most important financial centers in the world and the main pipeline of money in and out of Asia, especially China.
Multinationals are also looking elsewhere.
More than a third of members of the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association say they have already transferred jobs to other countries. They go to places like Singapore, Dubai, Australia and Japan, said Sally Wong, CEO of the association.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Hong Kong hard. For a time this spring, it had the highest COVID-19 death rate on Earth.
Things are much better now, but as the rest of the world emerges from the pandemic, people in Hong Kong still have to wear full masks and use an app-based screening system similar to mainland China.
They must scan public places with a QR code, including restaurants, and new arrivals cannot enter restaurants at all for three days.
“This ability or inability to travel freely in and out definitely affects Hong Kong,” Wong said. “We have to get back to normal, 100 per cent.”
This week Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee gave a speech he hopes will reverse the talent drain, by offering open work visas to overseas university graduates.
But that may not be enough.
Despite the damage to Hong Kong’s economy and reputation, political watchers believe nothing will change until Chinese leaders on the mainland, who are calling the shots in Hong Kong, lift their zero COVID policy, and so far there is no sign of that.