According to the United Nations refugee office data, the last decade saw a significant increase in mainland and Hong Kong Chinese seeking political asylum in other countries. Persecution, economic instability, and lack of freedom are the most common reasons the Chinese continue to flee their country.
According to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of Chinese leaving their country rose from 7,732 in 2010 to 108,071 in 2020.
Similarly, about 89,200 people—more than 1% of Hong Kong’s population—left the island between mid-2020 and mid-2021, according to data from its Census and Statistics Department.
Hong Kong’s figures coincide with implementing the national security law with which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imported its policies of persecution, monitoring, and censorship to the island, ending what little autonomy Hong Kongers had.
With the national security law, the CCP put an end to free elections, now only candidates of the regime can run to be part of the legislature of Hong Kong, also in the same way that happens in China, social media are under strict monitoring and citizens can be prosecuted for criticizing the CCP.
The CCP’s intervention on the island also had consequences for its economy, as many companies, aware that there is no legal framework for doing business under the Chinese regime, moved their offices to Singapore.
According to VOA News, Edwin Lai, a Hong Kong resident, said, “Hong Kong’s living environment seems to be deteriorating, so I am looking for a better place where I can live a happier life.”
“There are a lot of restraints implemented in many areas, from freedom of speech to education. There are also many restrictions and many new laws and rules introduced,” Lai added, explaining the reasons why he was seeking to leave Hong Kong.
Interestingly, and perhaps due to language and cultural issues, many Hong Kongers choose Taiwan as their destination.
According to Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency, more than 10,000 Hong Kong Chinese moved there in 2020, and the trend continued in 2021 as the first seven months saw 5000 new Hong Kong residents in Taiwan.
While sharing the same culture as China, Taiwan has a democratic system, freedom of religion. As a result, it is one of the most prosperous economies in Southeast Asia despite pressure from the Chinese regime to avoid it.
Britain was also one of the most chosen destinations for Hong Kongers. In the first half of 2021, some 65,000 moved, mainly because the British government, in response to the CCP’s intervention on the island, granted a special overseas British visa to all Hong Kongers and their families.
As for mainland Chinese, most choose between the United States, Canada, and some South American countries, such as Ecuador.
The ordeal for the Chinese is even worse than that of the Hong Kongers. Even having moved, they are still being monitored, or their relatives left behind in China are persecuted, so the fear does not end.
Enver Turdi, a Uighur from Xinjiang province who sought political asylum in Turkey, says that as ties between the CCP and the Turkish government tighten, more and more Uighurs are being arrested and investigated at the behest of the Chinese communist regime.
“Turkey holds and investigates people for months or a year and finds nothing. Once they have the correct information, they let people go. For me, it’s been three years, and they are still investigating. China cannot provide evidence,” Turdi told VOA.
In another case, a Uighur woman who gained political asylum in the United States learned that both her father and brother were taken to concentration camps where they died. Other family members also disappeared.
Milly, a Chinese woman who chose Ecuador as a destination, is now dedicated to helping other Chinese migrants who want to leave China and shared the main reasons why her clients want to leave the country.
“Many of my clients are afraid their renminbi (Chinese currency) will turn into trash, so they exchange all the RMB for dollars and stash them at home. Some are afraid China is going back to the planned economy. Especially for the generation who have experienced those dark days, they are afraid their property will be confiscated.”
Although Syria and Afghanistan appear to be the countries that produce the most war refugees, the extreme poverty of China’s rural population and poor access to information in China make it difficult to know the real number of Chinese who would leave their country for better conditions.