Youth I.D.E.A.S. 57
To Stay or To Leave? A Critical Question for Good Governance
30 January, 2021
Emigration is not a new phenomenon to Hong Kong. During recent decades there have been a few waves of emigration, mainly due to the city’s special social background (e.g. the negotiations in the early 1980s about its future, and subsequent political disputes and crises of confidence).
The recent spates of social unrest sparked by the proposed extradition legislation, and coupled with other issues, have revealed many unresolved and deep-rooted tensions within Hong Kong society. This has triggered people’s anxiety about the city’s future. A survey by the CUHK in September 2020 noted that 43.9% of respondents would emigrate if they had the chance, up from 33.1% in 2017. Most of the reasons were related to the governance of the HKSAR Government, and Hong Kong’s overall political atmosphere.
There are many factors, both social and personal, that contribute to the reasoning to stay or leave a home city. Whatever factor/s ultimately decide the outcome, confidence in future stability or prosperity is important; good governance plays a significant role.
The social unrest of the city in recent years has heavily impacted the governance of the HKSAR Government. Young people were widely understood to be major participants, expressing sadness, anxiety, and dissatisfaction. Young people’s sense of belonging to Hong Kong might be adversely affected if the situation continues or deteriorates; thoughts of leaving the city cannot be ruled out. While the city becomes more divided, the struggles and needs of young people who opt to stay and live in the city deserve attention as well.
Young people have a sense of belonging to, and wanting a better, Hong Kong. With the city under tremendous difficulty, which has never been seen before, the spotlight is now on the inclination of youth to stay or leave. The deficiency of the HKSAR Government’s governance highlighted by the issue of whether the youth stay or leave is also worth studying.
In light of the recent social unrests of the city, this research looked at the main considerations of youth in Hong Kong affecting the decision to stay or leave, and their concerns and needs given the current situation. This research aimed to propose key insights as to how the Government and wider society could progress through the current difficulty.
In conducting this research, data was collected between October and December 2020 through: an on-site survey of 525 young people (aged 18 to 34); parallel case interviews with 17 similar individuals (8 chose to emigrate, 9 chose to stay), and research-exclusive interviews with 5 academics and experts.
 Press Release by The Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (6 October 2020).
 HKFYG. (2018). YI033. “Nurturing Talent for Governance” (Aug. 2018). The study noted that 69.1% of the young respondents agreed with the notion that “you have a sense of belonging to Hong Kong”.
 HKFYG. (2017). YI023. “Young People’s Views on Togetherness” (Jun. 2017). The study noted that 97.6% of the young respondents agreed with the notion that “you want Hong Kong to become better”.