More Hongkongers considering moving to S'pore amid ongoing political crisis

The figures are set to rise as the 2047 deadline looms closer.

Kayla Wong | July 28, 2019, 03:05 PM

Amidst spiralling tensions between the anti-extradition bill protesters and the Hong Kong government, more Hongkongers are reportedly starting to look at getting out of Hong Kong and moving to Singapore is one of the options.

Singapore as backup option

According to a report by Hong Kong-based English-language newspaper South China Morning Post (SCMP), property agents have received an increased number of queries from Hong Kong residents looking to relocate to Singapore.

There has also been a rise in admission enquiries at the ISS International School, an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School in Singapore.

In addition, the school told SCMP that six students from Hong Kong are joining the school in August, which is a lot more than the average of just one to two in previous years.

Singapore permanent residency?

And that's not all.

Despite turning their noses up at the prospect of obtaining Singapore permanent residency in the past, this might no longer the case.

Former top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow wrote in 2006 that in the period just before the 1997 handover -- when many Hongkongers felt uncertain about their future -- Singapore introduced the "landed PR (permanent residence) scheme" for them.

This means that "other than those with criminal records", any Hong Kong family could "literally obtain PR status on arrival at Changi Airport".

"Even then, many Hongkongers thumbed their noses at us," he wrote.

Thereafter, when property prices rose, the few who did accept PR status in Singapore gave up their HDB (Housing & Development Board) flats which they bought on the resale market.

They had previously rented out their flats as they did not live in Singapore.

Few from Hong Kong had remained in Singapore from that time.

However, Singaporean billionaire Oei Hong Leong told SCMP in a separate interview that wealthy Hong Kong businessmen, other than expressing greater interest in buying property in Singapore, permanent residency is also on the cards.

Singapore not a top choice for Hongkongers yet

However, while more than half of the nine property agents and international schools SCMP spoke to said they have received relatively more enquiries from Hong Kong residents recently, such a surge in interest has not necessarily translated to concrete moves.

But such a lapse of time between enquiring about Singapore and actually making the move is understandable as transactions for big-ticket items like properties take time to finalise, SCMP reported.

Singapore is also not considered to be a top choice for Hongkongers thinking about relocating, SCMP reported Tay Kah Poh, the Executive Director at real estate consultancy Knight Frank Singapore, as saying.

Tay also said the Hong Kong people will only leave "if the domestic situation becomes untenable".

Many Hongkongers left before 1997

According to government estimates cited by the Hong Kong Free Press, hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers left the Special Administrative Region (SAR) between 1990 and 1997, which was the year when the handover took place.

Top destinations included Canada, Australia, and the United States.

And the trend seems to be making a comeback in recent years.

For the first time in the last two decades, thousands of Hong Kong-born Canadian citizens are moving to Canada, rather than the other way round, according to Inkstone News.

With the "one country, two systems" arrangement in Hong Kong expiring in 2047, and with increased political upheaval, the figures are expected to rise further.

Top image by Mike Enerio/Unsplash