Hong Kong's population dwindled by a record number
, mainly spurred by people departing the island to evade draconian Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols.
Based on data released by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the special administrative region saw a decline of 121,500 residents in the year that closed on June 30. It equated to a 1.6 percent drop in population, which left the total number of people in Hong Kong at about 7.29 million.
The data released Aug. 11 marked the third straight year of population declines and the biggest drop in at least six decades.
A government spokesperson commented on the department's data.
"It is believed that the pandemic and the related quarantine requirements would have impacted talent inflow, especially those on short-term employment visas [or] entry permits. This problem could be resolved when the quarantine and social distancing measures [are] relaxed," the spokesperson said.
"Amidst the continued impact of COVID-19, stringent border control and quarantine measures have been in place in Hong Kong, mainland [China] and other places around the world, resulting in severe interruption of cross-boundary travel."
The spokesperson added that residents who had left the city before the onset of the pandemic "may have chosen to reside in other places temporarily, or were unable to return to Hong Kong."
Hong Kong's population spiked in the post-war era amid waves of mass migration from the mainland following the 1949 Chinese Civil War, which saw a victory for Mao Tse-Tung and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It had only seen a few instances of decline since 1961.
The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome and protests against an earlier security law in the early 2000s caused Hong Kong's population to shrink by 0.2 percent. But the city's population further shrank as the CCP implemented stringent health measures in line with Beijing's zero-COVID policy.
National security law also a factor in population decline
A wide-reaching national security law put in place by the city served as another factor for the exodus of Hongkongers.
The legislation – formally named the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region – was passed in June 2020 at the behest of Beijing. The national security law took effect amid months of civil unrest and pro-democracy protests. (Related: Massive protests rock Hong Kong as citizens reject 'fake democracy' controlled by communist China.
According to the city-state's government, the law sought to restore stability in Hong Kong. However, it only gave police sweeping new powers and targeted dissent under the guise of criminalizing subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.
Law enforcement authorities said almost 200 people had been arrested for allegedly endangering national security by mid-2022. According to the Hong Kong Free Press
, this equated to one person being taken into custody for violating the law every 3.7 days.
The Hong Kong Police Force's National Security Department arrested 57 people in January 2021 – the highest count since the law took effect. Of this total, 55 were pro-democracy candidates who participated in an opposition primary election in July 2020.
Of the 55 pro-democracy candidates arrested, 47 were charged and 34 were taken into custody awaiting trial.
National security arrests shot up in June and July as the two months coincided with the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary and annual July 1 marches.
There were only three months where Hong Kong's law enforcement did not arrest anyone for endangering national security: October 2020, October 2021 and January 2022.
The tyrannical national security law sparked criticism around the world for its vagueness, broad scope and targeting of dissent. It also prompted the U.S. to impose sanctions on several officials in both Hong Kong and mainland China.
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