Australia fights hard to attract Hong Kong talent

December 01, 2022 06:00
Photo: Reuters

Since the passage of the National Security Law in 2020, Australia has been competing hard with Britain, Canada, New Zealand and other countries to attract talented people from Hong Kong.

In the 2021 Financial Year (July 2021 to June 2022), more than 4,300 Hong Kong citizens became Australian permanent migrants, up from 1,391 in the previous year. Their main fields of employment are financial services and fintech, digital technology, health industries, infrastructure and tourism.

The figure is likely to increase with the opening of two new visa pathways for Hong Kongers announced by the Consulate-General in March this year, with details on its website.

Under a visa scheme introduced in 2020, applicants must hold degrees from Australian institutions and have held student visas for the previous six months. They may obtain permanent residence, if they have completed a course of at least two years and lived in Australia for three or four years. They do not need to have already secured a job.

The number of Hong Kong applicants for this kind of visa during the 2021-2022 year was 1,600.

There is broad public and political support for Hong Kong migrants. In July 2020, the former government of Scott Morrison offered safe haven visas to more than 12,000 Hong Kong citizens, many of them students, if they were in Australia at that time. Canberra also suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

In a statement on September 13 this year, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Section of the Australian Parliament said that the issue of Hong Kong had transcended party politics on the floor of the Australian Parliament. “Australian federal parliamentarians across the political spectrum have shown sustained interest in the Anti-Extradition Amendment Bill Movement and have consistently raised concerns about the implementation and impacts of the Hong Kong National Security Law.”

“Migration is critical to address the country’s labour shortage and stimulate economic activity,” said a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs.

David Chan, in his 50s and who works in the tourism industry, applied in 2021 and now lives in Western Australia with his family. “With less than A$1 million, you can own your own house, garden and a garage for two cars. That is not possible in Hong Kong.” He also cited fresh air, sunshine, beaches and many outdoor activities as reasons for moving.

“The work pressure is lower than in Hong Kong, so I have a better work-life balance,” he said.

Other attractions are high-quality English education for their children and proximity to Asia so that Hong Kong entrepreneurs can visit the region regularly for business.

The arrival of migrants has led to the creation of “Little Hong Kongs”. One is in Hurstville, a southern suburb of Sydney,the largest Chinese settlement in the southern hemisphere. With over half of its population from mainland China and Hong Kong, it has the highest proportion of Chinese in the city. Its 5,040 Cantonese-speakers account for 16.2 per cent of the population of the suburb. It has Chinese supermarkets, many kinds of Chinese cuisine and branches of HSBC and Bank of China.

Another Little Hong Kong in Sydney is Carlingford in the northwest. It has 3,704 Cantonese-speakers, accounting for 13.2 per cent of its population. One is Mr Wang, who moved there with his wife in 2008. He picked Carlingford because it had a large Chinese population, offered a wide variety of shops and commercial malls and he could afford a detached home there.

It has 25 parks and public spaces, with facilities for tennis, basketball, jogging and other sports.

Another Hong Kong resident of Carlingford is Mary Chan who moved before the pandemic, so that her daughter could attend a local school. Both she and her husband received their entire education in Australia and so are very familiar with its education system.

“Before buying, you must learn the catchment area of the school you want your child to attend. You must live in that catchment area. House prices in the area of desired schools are higher,” she said.

But living in Australia has its downsides. Many people will have a lower post-tax income than they earned in Hong Kong. Another is dependence on the automobile for people living in the suburbs, a majority.

You are far from your friends even in Australia and even further from your relatives in Hong Kong. Private health insurance is expensive. Australia is increasingly subject to extreme weather, including droughts and severe floods.

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A Hong Kong-based writer, teacher and speaker.