Num­ber of peo­ple granted per­ma­nent res­i­dency ver­sus the to­tal num­ber of ap­pli­cants ap­proved via dif­fer­ent schemes seven years ear­lier

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FOCUS - Con­tact the writer at stushadow@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Though the com­po­si­tion of im­mi­grants has evolved as their fam­ily, ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic back­grounds have di­ver­si­fied over the past 20 years, the im­age of new im­mi­grants lags be­hind.” Su­sanne Choi Yuk-ping, pro­fes­sor at the De­part­ment of So­ci­ol­ogy, Chi­nese Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong Ad­mis­sion Scheme for Main­land Tal­ents and Pro­fes­sion­als (ASMTP)

Im­mi­gra­tion Ar­range­ments for Non-lo­cal Grad­u­ates (IANG) Qual­ity Mi­grant Ad­mis­sion Scheme 693 905 1,643 N/A 49.3% N/A 62.5% 6,075 6,744 11.4% 13.4%

Maple Ma made a de­ci­sion to let the thing that had once seemed so de­sir­able go — af­ter she had al­ready spent about seven years pur­su­ing it. That thing was per­ma­nent res­i­dency in the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion. While it would seem un­wise — even crazy — to many peo­ple to pass up the op­por­tu­nity to get per­ma­nent res­i­dency in the city af­ter so much ef­fort, for Ma the de­ci­sion was long over­due.

By 2016, she had been stay­ing in the city for seven years. She still re­mem­bered her ini­tial mo­tive for com­ing to the SAR — a mas­ter’s de­gree in law at the Chi­nese Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong (CUHK). That was in 2008. Back then, she didn’t want to dive right into the job mar­ket in her home city af­ter fin­ish­ing her bach­e­lor’s de­gree — even if that city was one as full of op­por­tu­ni­ties and at­trac­tions as Shang­hai.

In­stead, when she learned of CUHK’s one-year taught mas­ter’s de­gree pro­gram that guar­an­tees a year’s un­con­di­tional stay to look for a job af­ter grad­u­a­tion, she came to Hong Kong.

For the first few years in the city, Ma tried hard to blend in with the Can­tonese-speak­ing so­ci­ety, the hus­tle and bus­tle of the streets, the al­ways crowded restau­rants — even those of­fer­ing sim­ple daily noo­dles — and the high-end busi­ness dis­tricts with their di­verse faces.

Seek­ing space

How­ever, be­fore long her cramped liv­ing con­di­tions spurred her to take res­i­dence across the boundar y while stay­ing in the city for work. Un­til 2009 she had lived in the liv­ing room of a flat less than 400 square feet in a walk-up build­ing near the uni­ver­sity — with two room­mates tak­ing up the two bed­rooms. It was the kind of com­mon shackup of­ten un­der­taken by non­lo­cal stu­dents seek­ing to pur­sue their higher ed­u­ca­tion in “Asia’s World City”. The fi­nal straw came when Ma saw a rat run­ning through the liv­ing room while she tried to sleep on the shabby bed.

Ma joined the 44,600-strong force that com­mutes cross­bound­ary to work ev­ery day, ac­cord­ing to a 2010 sur­vey by the Plan­ning De­part­ment of the HKSAR Gov­ern­ment. That num­ber has gone up by six times com­pared with the 7,500 cross-bound­ary com­muters in 1999.

Re­solv­ing to move to Shen­zhen and commute to the Hong Kong Is­land to work was a phys­i­cal de­par­ture that even­tu­ally made her de­ci­sion to up­root her en­tire life to Shen­zhen much eas­ier.

But what prompted her fi­nal de­par­ture was the re­al­iza­tion that find­ing a soul mate in this cap­i­tal­is­tic city was un­re­al­is­tic and re­mote, mostly due to the cul­ture gap be­tween Ma and both the Hong Kong and for­eign men she had met over the years.

Like thou­sands of others, for years Ma’s work and life had been sep­a­rated by a weav­ing trek through two cities. On the al­most two-hour commute, she had her phone to kill the dull and te­dious jour­ney. She would take the train from the Lo Wu check­point to the Hung Hom ter­mi­nal. There, she would trans­fer to a bus for an­other 30 min­utes — some­times longer due to the near-con­stant con­ges­tion of the Cross-Har­bour Tun­nel, the city’s busiest.

By this time, she had been hired by a Hong Kong com­pany to con­duct busi­ness on the main­land.

New peo­ple, old im­age

In fact, main­land tal­ents like Ma make up a con­sid­er­able chunk of new im­mi­grants. With their higher stan­dard of ed­u­ca­tion, eco­nomic and fam­ily back­grounds, these main­land high-end tal­ents ar­rive through four schemes — the Ad­mis­sion Scheme for Main­land Tal­ents and Pro­fes­sion­als (ASMTP), the Qual­ity Mi­grant Ad­mis­sion Scheme, En­try for Study in Hong Kong and the Im­mi­gra­tion Ar­range­ments for Non-lo­cal Grad­u­ates (IANG).

Last year alone, 18,887 main­land stu­dents came to the city to study. Af­ter ob­tain­ing their de­gree, usu­ally they will be granted a one-year un­con­di­tional stay un­der IANG. In the same year, a to­tal of 8,611 grad­u­ates were able to stay in the city via this ar­range­ment. Since 2008 when IANG was

The re­sults of the Hong Kong 2016 Pop­u­la­tion By-cen­sus re­vealed that the num­ber of Hong Kong res­i­dents born in the Chi­nese main­land, Ma­cao and Tai­wan fell by 26,663 to around 31 per­cent of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion in 2016, which is 2.5 per­cent less than that of 2006. In the mean­time, the num­ber of Hong Kong res­i­dents born in for­eign re­gions, over the same pe­riod, rose by 186,253 peo­ple to around 8.4 per­cent of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion last year — 2.2 per­cent more than that in 2006.

Be­tween 2006 and last year, 390,651 new im­mi­grants orig­i­nat­ing from the main­land, Ma­cao and Tai­wan came to live in the city, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment’s by-cen­sus. That was 20 per­cent less than the 500,133 given sta­tus as One-way Per­mit Hold­ers con­cur­rently.

Ad­di­tion­ally, over the same decade at least 284,000 peo­ple came un­der the four ma­jor schemes, in­clud­ing 142,000 main­land stu­dents com­ing for study and an­other 84,000 com­ing un­der the Ad­mis­sion Scheme for Main­land Tal­ents and Pro­fes­sion­als (ASMTP), to­gether with around 57,000 who were granted stay un­der the Im­mi­gra­tion Ar­range­ments for Non-lo­cal Grad­u­ates (IANG) pro­gram.

Sim­ple math sheds light on how many have been leav­ing the city — nearly 50 per­cent.

Take the ASMTP scheme as an ex­am­ple, those who stayed for seven years and ap­plied for per­ma­nent res­i­dency amounted to only slightly more than 10 per­cent of the orig­i­nal num­ber of ap­pli­cants seven years ago, on av­er­age. In 2016, 699 peo­ple be­came per­ma­nent res­i­dents via the scheme — far fewer than the 6,514 peo­ple granted stay in 2009.

Even for the pop­u­lar IANG pro­gram, the brain drain con­tin­ues apace. In 2015, 1,742 peo­ple were granted per­ma­nent res­i­dency — around 66 per­cent of the fig­ure (2,785) in 2008.

Hong Kong ap­pears to be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the flight of too many young tal­ents — surely a wor­ry­ing sign amid the ex­plo­sion of growth and re­gional com­pe­ti­tion across the Guang­dong-Hong Kong-Ma­cao Greater Bay Area. Note: One needs to stay in Hong Kong for seven years be­fore be­ing granted per­ma­nent res­i­dency. N/A refers to the fact that there were no of­fi­cial record of the par­tic­u­lar scheme in that year. in­tro­duced, Hong Kong has seen a to­tal of around 55,000 main­land grad­u­ates granted the right to stay un­der IANG up un­til the end of last year.

More­over, an­other 10,404 peo­ple from the main­land were granted per­mis­sion to stay last year through the ASMTP.

Pro­fes­sor Su­sanne Choi Yukping at the De­part­ment of So­ci­ol­ogy of CUHK said there has been a struc­tural upheaval in new im­mi­grants since China’s re­sump­tion of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.

“For the past 20 years, mar­riage has been a ma­jor way for new im­mi­grants to mi­grate. That grad­u­ally di­ver­si­fied and seek­ing bet­ter jobs and ed­u­ca­tion have bal­looned dras­ti­cally and be­came an­other two ma­jor rea­sons for new im­mi­grants to set­tle in the city,” Choi said.

Ear­lier in the 1990s, many Ho n g Ko n g m e n m a r r i e d women from the main­land and had chil­dren. The fam­i­lies of these Hong Kong men are en­ti­tled to come to the city un­der the One-way Per­mit, capped at 150 per day. Since 1998, a to­tal of 885,689 peo­ple have come to the city in this way.

“The is­sue of new im­mi­grants is in fact an is­sue of so­cial stra­tum,” C hoi said, adding that most of the new im­mi­grants com­ing to the city soon af­ter Hong Kong’s re­turn to the na­tion came from the grass­roots and stayed in the lower-in­come bracket there­after.

Choi, who has writ­ten ex­ten­sively on is­sues such as mi­grant la­bor and cross-bound­ary mar­riage, was a new im­mi­grant her­self once, hav­ing mi­grated to the SAR with her fam­ily at the age of seven. The Fu­jian­born scholar, with per fec t Can­tonese and pro­fes­sional achieve­ments, is a poster girl for suc­cess­ful new im­mi­grants who have blended in.

“Though the com­po­si­tion of im­mi­grants has evolved a s t h e i r f a m i l y, e d u c at i o n and eco­nomic back­grounds have di­ver­si­fied over the past 20 years, the im­age of new im­mi­grants lags be­hind,” Choi lamented.

The im­age of new im­mi­grants doesn’t re­flect the re­al­ity but rather a stereo­type, Choi said, adding that new im­mi­grants are prone to la­bels or pub­lic stigma­ti­za­tion if any- thing ex­tra­or­di­nary or un­for­tu­nate hap­pens to them.

More­over, she feels the gov­ern­ment has done too lit­tle to coun­ter­act the neg­a­tive stereo­types. When for­mu­lat­ing poli­cies, she said, it hasn’t fac­tored in the im­pact of new im­mi­grants on the city’s ex­ist­ing grass­roots ci­ti­zens, whose lives will be more af­fected by new im­mi­grants than those in other so­cial strata. She said this is par­tic­u­larly true of plan­ning in re­gard to the city’s wards and pub­lic med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties, where surges in new im­mi­grants can un­der­mine the in­ter­ests of grass­roots and the ma­jor­ity in us­ing the pub­lic health ser­vices.

Home­ward bound

“Go­ing back to Shen­zhen is not a blind shot,” Ma said. “The tim­ing is good — a good job of­fer­ing bet­ter pay, on top of the prefer­able liv­ing con­di­tion and seam­less cul­tural adap­ta­tion.

“Plus, I have been in Hong Kong for that many years and I have al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced it.”

The ben­e­fits of main­land r e s i d e n c y, a l s o k n o w n a s hukou, have im­proved over the years. More­over, main­land em­ploy­ers are now ob­li­gated to make con­tri­bu­tions to the so-called “five so­cial in­sur­ances and one hous­ing fund” — form­ing a high-level safety net of med­i­cal in­sur­ance, en­dow­ment in­sur­ance, un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance, em­ploy­ment in­jury in­sur­ance and ma­ter­nity in­sur­ance, and hous­ing prov­i­dent fund.

Apart from bet­ter ma­ter­nity leave and even ma­ter­nity al­lowance, Ma also has fac­tored in the prospect of hav­ing a child in the fu­ture. If she had a child while still in the HKSAR, the child would later need to commute across the bound­ary from Shen­zhen to study in Hong Kong, be­cause he or she would hold a Hong Kong iden­tity card. She said it would be un­bear­able to force a child to commute cross-bound­ary to study.

“Get­ting per­ma­nent res­i­dency in Hong Kong is like a chicken rib — a thing of lit­tle value but a pity to throw away,” Ma said.

2014 2007

2015 2008

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