Hong Kong citizens’ first wave of mass emigration to western countries occurred during the late 1980s to the early 1990s, before the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. The Chinese communist regime waged numerous political campaigns to wipe out the landlords and capitalists in mainland China shortly after it seized power in 1949. Frightened by the bloody class struggles in China, many rich families in Hong Kong decided to leave their motherland, believing that even an unfamiliar foreign land would be a safer place to live than Hong Kong after being handed over to China.
Those who decided to stay hoped that Beijing would keep its promise that Hong Kong would be ruled under a “One Country Two System” framework, and its autonomous status would remain unchanged for 50 years.
However, the introduction of an extradition bill and demonstrations against the bill, labeled as riots, in recent months, shattered any hope they had.
The bill would allow China to seek extradition of criminal suspects, and many were worried that the Hong Kong government would be pressured to hand over individuals who would then be tried in mainland China, a country notorious for unfair trials, human rights abuses, and persecution of religious groups.
Canada-Hong Kong Link Director Gloria Fung, a real estate broker in Toronto, told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that many Hongkongers holding Canadian citizenship or permanent residency have been moving back to Canada in the last two years. This group of people immigrated to Canada decades ago and later returned to Hong Kong for business or career reasons.
There are about 300,000 Hongkongers holding Canadian citizenship. It is estimated that among current Hong Kong residents, over 500,000 either have Canadian citizenship or a Canadian work permit.
Fung revealed that many families from Hong Kong came to Toronto this summer usually for two purposes: spend time with their children during summer break, and to familiarize themselves with the housing market in the Greater Toronto housing market. Most Hongkongers prefer high-rise condos and single-family homes, and many plan to purchase a property within the next two to three years.
Fung often went to Hong Kong to give real estate investment seminars. She noticed that many businessmen were intensely interested in overseas investment opportunities, as they wished to transfer assets to safer countries in Asia, Europe, and North America.
“This phenomenon started about three years ago, and has become more noticeable in recent months,” Fung said.
According to Fung, previously, buyers from Hong Kong focused on buying investment properties in Toronto. They often chose to purchase a property during its construction or pre-construction stage, and planned to use it as a rental.
Ever since the introduction of the controversial extradition bill, the number of potential buyers of properties in Canada from Hong Kong has increased drastically, and their plan is to immigrate to Canada, Fung revealed. Many of her clients told her that if the extradition bill were passed, their whole family would move to Toronto within two to three years.
Joseph C.H. Wong, President of RE/MAX Excel Realty based in Toronto, told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that his team has received many emails from Hong Kong in the past month. Some made appointments to look at properties in Toronto in August or September, some requested property information and photos by email.
“It is certainly related to the current unrest in Hong Kong,” Wong said. “My two sisters still live in Hong Kong. I can feel their anxiety and worry every time we talk on the phone. If the extradition bill is passed, Hong Kong will be no different than any other city in mainland China. As a result, Hongkongers no longer feel Hong Kong is a safe place to live.”