In the last 12 months, as China has imposed new laws on Hong Kong, there has been speculation of an exodus of Hong Kong residents and citizens.

The saga began last June when laws facilitating mainland extraditions were first proposed and protests broke out.

While the government ultimately backed down, new national security legislation was passed in recent days targeting anti-Beijing speech in the territory.

This has led to the governments of several western countries, including Australia, promising to grant refuge to Hong Kong citizens.

This is not the first time fears of an exodus have been raised, this happened back in the 1980s when the handover date to China was agreed on.

But there are signs that this time it is becoming a reality. For example, Taiwan’s government reported that 5,858 people from Hong Kong had become Taiwanese residents in the last 12 months.

This is a 41 per cent jump from the year before and occurred despite Taiwan’s border closure.

Applications for police certificates required to permanently leave Hong Kong surged almost 80 per cent to nearly 21,000 in the latter half of 2019.

And pro-democracy groups such as the Australia-Hong Kong Link have reported seeing spikes in people asking for information about visas.


Long-term economic benefits

Atlas Advisors Chairman Guy Hedley says targeting high net worth investors specifically could pay off for Australia.

“High net worth migrants from Hong Kong could bring long-term economic benefits to Australia,” he said.

“Importantly, their commitments under the complying investment framework go towards local tax-generating enterprises startups and emerging companies that increase employment, innovation and market opportunities.

“It will also help to build stronger international business networks and partnerships that enhance building Australia’s competitiveness.”

However, Hedley warned that Australia was at risk of missing out. He specifically called for the Business Innovation and Investment Program to be revamped and investor visas to be given priority.

“Australia must maintain a globally competitive migration program if it’s going to attract Hong Kong’s most wealthy investor migrants while also offering a safe haven to citizens in need,” he said.