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article imageAs unrest worsens, more Hong Kong citizens escape to U.S.

By Lucky Malicay     Mar 28, 2016 in Lifestyle
Over the past three years, more residents of Hong Kong are fleeing the Chinese autonomous territory to escape the rising social tensions and low job prospects with the United States their preferred destination.
In 2015, the U.S. consulate recorded about 100,000 visa applications, up from up to 20 percent in the previous year’s figure of 80,000 to 90,000, and an increase by 10 percent the year before that.
This prompted the U.S. consulate to streamline its visa issuance process. Starting last week, interviews are no longer required for those renewing non-permanent visas to meet the surging applications.
“There’s an increasing ­demand in going to the U.S. ... from Hong Kong,” Alex Ave-Lallemant, the consulate’s non-immigrant visas chief, told the South China Morning Post. “We anticipate a further increase in demand and are trying to be as proactive as possible.”
The consular office aims to cut by 30 percent the queues of those renewing their student, tourist or business visas. In 2014, it recorded 8,000 Hong Kong residents traveling to the U.S to study.
But the U.S. is not the only destination for the people in the former British colony now growing wary over the rising political conflict between the Chinese government and those seeking full sovereignty.
“We are experiencing a big increase in demand overall, not just to the U.S. but also to Canada and Australia,” said John Hui, an immigration consultant. “Young people are not happy. There is a lot of social unrest.”
As Hong Kong’s once strong economy started to crumble almost 20 years following the British handover, protests continue to rock the territory as thousands violently resist Chinese government’s growing interference in the city’s political affairs.
Its financial secretary, John Tsang, predicted a slowdown in economic growth for 2016 because of the riots and street battles, according to an AFP report.
"I was shocked that our city could have turned overnight into such a strange and alien place that I hardly recognized," said Tsang. "We anticipate that political disputes will only intensify over the coming months."
With tourism slowdown, export lull, rising U.S. interest rates and falling property market prices, Tsang said the economic outlook is far from promising. The situation is also worsened by the weakening economy of the mainland.
The unrest is also tainting Hong Kong’s image as an Asian financial center as the wealthy are now picking regional rival Singapore over the territory to locate.
In November 2015, CNBC reported that more globe-trotting millionaires, or those high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), were discouraged by the political developments in Hong Kong.
"Singapore's burgeoning financial markets, renowned private banking and superior quality of life are continuing to attract HNWIs from neighboring countries. We're currently seeing a large influx of Indian and Chinese millionaires into the country," WealthInsight head Oliver Williams said.
Since the United Kingdom transferred the territory’s sovereignty to China in 1997, Hong Kong functions under the unique principle of one country, two systems, which grants certain democratic rights and freedoms to its citizens.
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