Hong Kong is likely to see a mass transfer of its youth as the city is released in a renewed period of uncertainty, following China’s decision to impose a national bill, an analyst warned.
“For young people in Hong Kong, the future is elsewhere, it’s as simple as that,” David Roche, president and global strategist at Independent Strategy, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday.
“Young people, all their lives ahead of them, are making their own decisions,”; said Roche, adding that Hong Kong youth are looking to move overseas for reasons such as education and their career. “A large proportion of these people seek to leave, whether they protest or not.”
Roche’s comments came after the Chinese National Congress on Thursday approved a proposal to enact a new national security law for Hong Kong, a special administrative region under China. The move raised questions about the status of territorial semi-autonomy that occurred when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
In response to Beijing’s move, US President Donald Trump announced Friday that he would take steps to eradicate trade and travel privileges in Hong Kong. One concern to observers is that any potential sanctions applicable to the United States in China, would also apply to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is governed by the principle of “one nation, two systems” which gives it some freedoms not available to those on the mainland, including limited election rights and the power of self-governance. Critics said the new law would give Beijing more power to eradicate disputes.
Even before the security legislation was proposed, Hong Kong had been stoned for months by pro-democracy protests last year sparked by a proposed extradition bill. These mass demonstrations became increasingly violent and weakened in the broader anti-government demonstrations. Months of civil unrest pushed the city’s economy into a recession as tourists arrived and retail prices hit.
Youth ‘somewhat hostile’
The outbreak of the coronavirus, with the city reporting its first case in January, has brought some sadness to the city as social flight measures are put in place. But protesters are back on the streets after China’s new law is proposed.
“Whether you’re a defender or not a Hong Kong protester, whether you’re a teenager, the perspective for you given the pay levels in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area and everything else. The outlook for yours is – career -wise, lifestyle-wise – not good, “Roche said.
Hong Kong riot police rounded up a group of protesters during a protest protesting a bill that would prove insulting China’s national anthem, demonstrators marched on street and sing songs and slogans.
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“It’s very, very bad. This is probably the biggest hit that could come from a worsening situation,” he added.
Taiwan is stepping up its offer to help recover Hong Kongers who want to leave the city. The U.K. is also reporting. the possibility of offering Hong Kongers a British National (Overseas) passport – a document issued to some city citizens in its days under the colonial government – a path to citizenship, according to the BBC.
However, it is unknown how many can actually get away.
According to Roche, “approximately 70% of all people who have demonstrated or professed either pro-democracy or more-minded forms of freedom in Hong Kong, do not have a passport that allows them to go away. “
Commenting on the current sentiment among Hong Kong youth, Roche said: “Young people are still a bit hostile and I hope we have never seen the latter in street demonstrations.”
Still, he warned that repression would get “more intense.”
“We’ll see what coverage actually motivates big people out on the streets or not,” the strategist said. “That is clearly, obviously a risk.”
“I would say the will is not resignation, it is somber,” Roche said.
– CNN’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.