06/27/2022, 13.20
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National security law sparks a brain drain from Hong Kong

Scholars are leaving the city for lack of academic freedom and the fear of being imprisoned for their research and teaching activities. In 2021, Hong Kong's population decreased by 23,600. The exodus is also affected by draconian rules to counter the spread of COVID-19.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – After Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong two years ago, local universities have faced a growing brain drain.

The lack of academic freedom and the fear of being imprisoned over one’s research and teaching activities are driving factors behind the exodus, not to mention the fact that local universities have fired or not renewed the contract of non-conforming teaching staff.

No firm data are available on the number of scholars who have left the former British colony since the summer of 2020.

However, an indirect measure by Nikkei Asia notes that the proportion of mainland professors at city universities has jumped to nearly 25 per cent of the total in the most recent academic year, up from 19.6 per cent just a few years ago, while international staff members slipped modestly to 28.5 per cent over the same period.

The issue of fleeing the city is wider and concerns mainly dissidents and pro-democracy activists, forced to flee abroad in order not to end up in prison.

According to government figures, Hong Kong's population dropped by 23,600 in 2021.

In a survey published earlier this year, the US Chamber of Commerce revealed that 42 per cent of foreigners in the city considered leaving, while 26 per cent of foreign companies considered moving their business to other countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is not expected to mention these data on 1 July, the day marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return under Chinese sovereignty after British colonial rule. On that day, Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive, John Lee, will take office.

It is not yet clear whether Xi will attend the event in person or take part via satellite feed; however, it is well known that the Chinese leader wants only "patriotic" academics in the city.

In addition to the weakening the traditional freedoms granted to the city for its return to China in 1997, observers note that the stringent COVID-19 restrictions have also influenced the decision of thousands of residents to emigrate.

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