Waves of mass migrations from Hong Kong

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The Hong Kong Mass Migration Wave was one of the waves of emigration of Hong Kong residents since the Second World War, accelerated by the Hong Kong 1967 Leftist Riots and extending into the 1980s and 1990s fuelled by Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. By some estimates, the number of emigrants was in tens of thousands in this period.


Traditional ways of life in the Indigenous inhabitants villages in the New Territories collapsed at the end of WWII. Unable to earn a living in the newly industrialised economy of post-war Hong Kong, many villagers exercised their right of abode in the United Kingdom and left for Europe.

In 1967, a series of large-scale riots erupted in Hong Kong, causing social instability. These events led some of the richer Hong Kong residents to move abroad. Emigration took place to countries in Southeast Asia, South Africa or South American countries. This wave did not come to a rest until the mid-1970s.

On the 19th of December 1984, the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom signed the "Sino-British Joint Declaration", validated the 1997 transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to China. The declaration prompted emigration of the Hong Kongers. The British government made it clear that Hong Kong citizens would not be granted British citizenship on the grounds that they were residing in a British colony, so instead, numerous residents sought alternate arrangements and migrated to other countries.

The Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 in Beijing triggered mass migration in the 1990s. Canada, Australia, and other Commonwealth realms were the primary destinations for migrants at the time. In particular, popular cities for migrants included Metro Vancouver and the Greater Toronto Area in Canada, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, and London in the UK. To a lesser extent, other immigrant destinations included San Francisco and New York in the US, as well as several Asian cities including Singapore, which was formerly a British colony.[1] At the height of the mass migration wave, some small states like Cape Verde advertised their passport in magazines. Some foreign embassies[citation needed] took bribes for giving out passports, amounting to outright political corruption.

Some people had relocated overseas through studying abroad and staying after graduation, while others simply obtained returning residency visa from the destination country, which was issued by some countries with no conditions attached in the late 1980s, and then returned to Hong Kong. Informed estimates range from 250,000 to one million people, with the peak years of outflow between 1988 and 1994 of about 55,000 per year. In 2011, the estimated migration rate reach the peak. In Hong Kong, over 65 percent of Hong Kong permanent residents desired to migrate to others countries, in accordance with the questionnaires originated from Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In 1990, the outflow of people reached a peak of 62,000 people or about 1% of the population. The emigration rate would reach the peak in 1992 with 66,000 people, followed by 53,000 in 1993, and 62,000 in 1994. An estimated US $4.2 billion flowed from Hong Kong to Canada directly as a result.[2]

From 1998, one year after the transfer of sovereignty, some Hong Kong-born emigrants returned to Hong Kong with foreign citizenship. The phenomenon is called "香港回流潮" (Hong-Kong returning tidal flow).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "As pessimism grows in Hong Kong, so do fears of potential exodus". 23 September 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2016 – via The Japan Times.
  2. ^ Manion, Melanie. [2004](2004). Corruption by Design: Building Clean Government in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Harvard University press. ISBN 0-674-01486-3