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Hong Kongers returning to Vancouver after years of population decline, census shows


Ken Tung said he recently helped a newcomer from Hong Kong find a basement apartment in Metro Vancouver for just $500 per month, thanks to a sympathetic landlord offering a discount.

“It’s a good price,” Tung said, adding that he has helped at least 100 young people from Hong Kong settle in Canada over the past three years.

But Tung says he plays a relatively limited role in resettling Hong Kongers compared to Vancouver-based groups, including churches, which have helped thousands.

“I know many churches and their people are helping newcomers to Hong Kong. People are donating furniture and reducing rent to help them,” Mr. Tung said.

Tung and others like him are facilitating a visible shift in the new Canadian census figures.

Data released this week shows that the population of Canada born in Hong Kong is on the rise, with the majority settling in the Vancouver area, reversing a trend of repatriation migration that previously saw thousands Hong Kongers leave Canada.

Experts say this change is being driven by a political crackdown in Hong Kong, which was introduced under sweeping national security legislation in 2020 following anti-government protests.

Some experts and expats say the violent crackdown on protests in Hong Kong since 2019 may help explain the increase in immigration to BC. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

The 2021 Census shows that the number of people born in Hong Kong in the Vancouver census metro area increased by 6.1% over the past five years, bringing the total population to more than 76,000. Before that it had been falling for decades.

The increase of 4,395 people accounts for 90% of the increase in Hong Kongers across Canada since 2016, when the previous census was conducted.

More are being deployed, using the new migration pathways Canada opened to Hong Kongers last year.

Tung said he was not surprised by the census numbers.

He said Hong Kongers who came to Metro Vancouver recently mainly fell into four categories – those returning with Canadian citizenship, those arriving with new work permits, students and some asylum seekers.

Their motives are largely the same, he said. “The answer is simple – they cannot see a future in Hong Kong,” Tung said.

A woman walks past a banner advertising national security legislation for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020. The controversial law would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity. declared in the city, raising fears that the law would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory. (Kin Cheung / AP)

The national security law has been used to target protesters and political opponents of the Hong Kong government.

Hong Kong was Canada’s largest source of immigration before its 1997 handover to China, but the Hong Kong presence in Canada has dwindled over the years as thousands returned to the former British colony.

The crackdown in Hong Kong was followed by the establishment of new immigration routes by Canadians in response.

But while the census showed 2,385 recent Hong Kong immigrants to the Vancouver metropolitan area in the previous five years, that number far outstrips the actual increase in the Hong Kong-born population, for More than 45% of new immigrants have obtained Canadian citizenship. or some other state.

Kennedy Chi-Pan Wong is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Southern California who has studied Hong Kong’s migration patterns.

Wong said his research shows many recent migrants are relatives, friends or colleagues of Hong Kong political prisoners.

There are 1,163 political prisoners in Hong Kong as of September 2022, according to the nonprofit Hong Kong Democratic Council, which the Chinese government claims is funded by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy.

“That really creates a big push, as we call it, in studies of migration, really pushing people out of the country,” says Wong.

Anti-national security law protesters march during the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain in Hong Kong, on July 1, 2020. (Tyrone Si / Reuters)

In addition to political uncertainty, other factors also arise, such as Hong Kong and mainland China’s strict pandemic rules, Wong said.

He said the COVID rules that have restricted movement have created concerns about business activity in Hong Kong and the future prosperity of the city.

The flow looks set to accelerate, with more than 20,000 study, permanent resident and work permits issued to Hong Kongers last year, after Canada launched a new open work permit pathway for those in the country. Hong Kong has just graduated from post-secondary schools.

Protesters march in the rain against Hong Kong’s new security law in Vancouver on July 1, 2020. (Dillon Hodgin / CBC)

Some of those roads will only take effect after the May 2021 census.

Wong said that the peak of newcomers from Hong Kong has yet to come to Canada.

This story was made possible with the financial support of the Meta-Canadian Press News Fellowship, without participating in the editing process.

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