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FEATURE-Hong Kong a magnet for mainland Chinese: rich and poor

HONG KONG, May 21 (Reuters) - Like many Chinese, piano virtuoso Lang Lang has a soft spot for Hong Kong, a view he shared on a recent visit to the former British colony after playing a Ravel concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra.

"I love it ... Hong Kong will become my Asian base," said the 24-year-old, spiky haired piano prodigy, who was born in Shenyang in northern China, but who recently became a Hong Kong resident through an elite, fast-track migrant admission scheme.

Lang's commitment to China's most international city, comes nearly 10 years after British dignitaries -- including the last governor Chris Patten -- returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, on a rainy night steeped in ceremony and emotion.

Since then, well over half a million Chinese such as Lang have spilled across the border to live in Hong Kong -- pushing the city's population up to almost seven million.

With just a 30 kilometre sliver of border dividing Hong Kong from its poorer Chinese hinterland, the port city has long been a haven of opportunity and stability for waves of Chinese immigrants and refugees -- fleeing poverty, war and communism since the tumultuous 1940's up until the 1970's.

Nowadays, tight immigration controls are in place -- with immigration capped at 150 individuals per day, mainly for the Chinese wives and children of Hong Kong residents.

But with one of the world's lowest birth rates, these immigrants now account for around 80 percent of Hong Kong's annual population growth, making them an increasingly vital part of Hong Kong society by helping replenish its ageing workforce.

"Hong Kong is 100 percent a part of China. It's very international and liberal, with an amalgam of cultures. A bit like America, but with a lot more Chinese culture," said Lang.

Cross-border marriages have proliferated -- with 4 out of every 10 marriages registered in Hong Kong now involving a Chinese mainlander.

"Most are what people would regard as low-skilled immigrants, the family of Hong Kong members, and many of them are women," said Leung Hon-chu, a sociologist at Baptist University.

STRUGGLE

But unlike Lang Lang, social scientists say most Chinese immigrants face a life of hardship, and are often stereotyped as poorly educated opportunists chasing jobs and social welfare.

"When I go out to the markets to buy clothes and food, I experience prejudice," said 39 year-old Ng Chi-lin, a mainlander who like many others had to wait several years to join her family in Hong Kong.

"Sometimes, if I don't buy something after asking the price, the stall-holders say I'm a bloody mainland woman who's too poor to buy anything," she added.

"Many are quite disappointed after coming to Hong Kong. There's an expectation gap," said Chua Hoi-wai, a director of a large social welfare group.

In 1999, the hopes of many aspiring cross-border families were dashed, when the Hong Kong government successfully asked China's parliament to overturn a legal ruling by Hong Kong's highest court that granted residency to all mainland children of Hong Kong people born outside Hong Kong.

"I will never forget this, nor forgive the government for what it did," said Ho Hei-wah, a veteran family activist: "It split many families and meant they couldn't live together."

REVERSE MIGRATION

But the sting of separation has eased somewhat since then, given relaxed travel restrictions which allow mainlanders greater flexibility to shuttle into Hong Kong on unlimited short visits.

In 2004, a staggering 147 million passenger trips were made between Hong Kong and the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The queuing time for those seeking Hong Kong residency has halved in some cases to just 2 or 3 years.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents have now moved into China, in search of cheaper and less hectic lives.

"(Hong Kong) feels very comfortable and provided for, but you never feel at home," said Andy Xie, a mainlander who lived in Hong Kong for over a decade since 1995, working as a leading economist for several international investment banks.

"Before 1997, there was a feeling of superiority, because Hong Kong was rich and prosperous, but Chinese cities have caught up fast," said Xie who moved back to Shanghai earlier this year.
 

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I don't think it's not all Chinese but also other Asian countries. Just like my parents ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The focus these days is on mainland immigrants. There are three types : professionals, business, and family reunions. The professional immigration scheme is fairly new, and is still in testing phase. Degree holders and specialists are allowed to enter Hong Kong to practice their profession, but whether they can adapt to the local business and social environment remains to be seen. Businesss immigrants need to bring money. That's easy. The family reunion immigrants are more problematic, specifically children of Hong Kongers still living in the mainland because they don't have residency here. Over the years, tensions have boiled many times, including a demonstration at the Immigration headquarters that resulted in a death. Many of these people are from poor families that don't have the resources to sustain themselves, let alone another few mouths to feed.

Mainland Chinese constitute by far the largest headache for the Hong Kong government at the moment - both rich ones and the poor ones. The other ethnic groups account for too little to be noticed. The Vietnamese refugee problem used to plague the colonial government, but that is long ago history.
 

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The focus these days is on mainland immigrants. There are three types : professionals, business, and family reunions. The professional immigration scheme is fairly new, and is still in testing phase. Degree holders and specialists are allowed to enter Hong Kong to practice their profession, but whether they can adapt to the local business and social environment remains to be seen. Businesss immigrants need to bring money. That's easy. The family reunion immigrants are more problematic, specifically children of Hong Kongers still living in the mainland because they don't have residency here. Over the years, tensions have boiled many times, including a demonstration at the Immigration headquarters that resulted in a death. Many of these people are from poor families that don't have the resources to sustain themselves, let alone another few mouths to feed.

Mainland Chinese constitute by far the largest headache for the Hong Kong government at the moment - both rich ones and the poor ones. The other ethnic groups account for too little to be noticed. The Vietnamese refugee problem used to plague the colonial government, but that is long ago history.
Of course those from The Mainland are the largest now HK is under China. BTW, those coming from outside Guangdong, will learning Cantonese be necessary for them?

How do we classifly immigration. HK has alot of Nigerians moving in and especially around Tsim Sha Tsui. Are they counted as immigrants?
 

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so how difficult is it to qualify under this quality immigrant scheme?
I take it as long as you speak either Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin) or English and you have a degree you qualify, isn't that too lax?

those coming from outside Guangdong, will learning Cantonese be necessary for them?
What language do Hong Kong speak at work, Cantonese or English? (general office environment, no customer service).
I guess it depends on if the company is foreign owned?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Of course those from The Mainland are the largest now HK is under China. BTW, those coming from outside Guangdong, will learning Cantonese be necessary for them?

How do we classifly immigration. HK has alot of Nigerians moving in and especially around Tsim Sha Tsui. Are they counted as immigrants?
No immigrant is required to learn Cantonese. There's no such absurd law, but if they want to interact with locals and learn about the local culture, then they should pick up the language on their own.

Many Africans and South Asians come to Hong Kong on visas. These people are not immigrants. Overstaying issues have arisen recently, and to deter Bangladeshi illegal immigrants from working and living in Hong Kong, visa-free requirements were dropped last December. Concerns over asylum seekers and stay violations have also prompted visa-free entry for Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, and a number of African nationals to be dropped. Ghana was the most recent one back in February.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
so how difficult is it to qualify under this quality immigrant scheme?
I take it as long as you speak either Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin) or English and you have a degree you qualify, isn't that too lax?



What language do Hong Kong speak at work, Cantonese or English? (general office environment, no customer service).
I guess it depends on if the company is foreign owned?
It's a combination of Cantonese and English, but Mandarin is becoming increasingly important for service industries, especially retail.

Quality Migrant Admission Scheme : http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/QMAS.htm
 

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another thing, what if you are in one of those regulated professions, lawyers, doctors, engineers, maybe even accountants..even if you have the qualifications dont you need to get certified by HK regulation bodys first before you can practice?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
another thing, what if you are in one of those regulated professions, lawyers, doctors, engineers, maybe even accountants..even if you have the qualifications dont you need to get certified by HK regulation bodys first before you can practice?
Each country has its own recognition criteria / agreements with Hong Kong, so it really depends. One of the problems with this scheme is the fast-tracking licensing for these professional designations.
 

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City's success hinges on injection of fresh talent, say academics
27 June 2007
South China Morning Post

A leading economist has warned that Hong Kong is facing a real danger of being marginalised, as the traditional pillars of its economy - trade and logistics - come under intense threat from the mainland.

In a paper delivered to academics around the world at a conference at Chinese University, Sung Yun-wing, chairman and professor of the university's economics department, charted the dramatic decline of Hong Kong's economy since the 1980s.

"Hong Kong's improvement in total factor productivity was the best among the Asian Four [Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan] from 1980 to 1990, but became the worst in the entire 1990s," he said.

While Hong Kong's economy had started to recover in the past two years, he noted that this was mostly on the back of the mainland's rapid development.

Professor Sung urged the import of foreign talent but another academic warned that government initiatives to relax immigration controls would face public opposition.

Professor Sung said "the share of China's trade re-exported via Hong Kong peaked in 1996 at 41 per cent and declined sharply thereafter".

Last year only 16 per cent of mainland trade was re-exported through Hong Kong, as the liberalisation of foreign investment in ports and services prompted competition from those on the mainland.

Hong Kong lost the title of the world's busiest port to Singapore in 2005 and slipped another place in April when it was outpaced by Shanghai. Shenzhen's port is also poised to overtake Hong Kong next year.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post last week, Zhang Xiaoqiang, deputy chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, urged Hong Kong to rethink it's shipping-centre status.

Professor Sung said much more needed to be done to attract talent from abroad and the mainland. "There is still quite some distance between Hong Kong and other great cities like London and New York," he said, noting these cities had a much more diversified pool of talent to draw from.

"Relying on financial services isn't enough for Hong Kong, since this industry does not produce enough jobs," he said. "Competition depends on having the talent to compete with. It's going to be difficult, but of course we must try."

Wong Siu-lun, director of the University of Hong Kong's Centre of Asian Studies, also recognised the challenge over Hong Kong's talent pool when he spoke on the city's demographic transition. He feared the present recovery might not persist in the long term if the city was not well prepared to tackle the challenges.

Professor Wong said Hong Kong would be plagued by an ageing population and needed to bring in new immigrants soon. "Popular attitudes are against immigration. It has repeatedly been shown in polls that the citizens are not enthusiastic to new immigration schemes," he said.
 

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Quality, not quantity, is key for migrants
Hong Kong Standard
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quality, not quantity, is the aim of the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, Assistant Director of Immigration Helen Chan Wing-mui stressed yesterday as she dismissed claims the scheme is unsuccessful even though the number of migrants has fallen below the yearly quota of 1,000.

"The most important thing is that those who are coming are elites," Chan said.

Another drawback is that, while immigration consultant companies are boosting the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme for their own business, no one is promoting QMAS.

More publicity campaigns are expected to come on line shortly to promote the immigration scheme which only started last year, Chan said.

Up to Tuesday, 238 of the 963 applicants were accepted. Of those, 50 are not mainlanders and 36 are ethnic Chinese.

Chan said 209 were approved under the General Points Test, which includes professional qualifications and working experience. A further 29 were assessed on their achievements and awards such as winning Olympic medals or being exceptional in their fields, such as pianists Lang Lang and Li Yundi.

One successful applicant is an executive director of a company listed in the Growth Enterprise Market, while another is a Briton who holds a senior position in a multinational company.

The scheme also attracted a mainland engineer, who has been involved in large-scale infrastructures and wants to make use of his engineering skills in Hong Kong, and a famous mainland fashion designer.

Ninety percent of the 963 applicants chose to be assessed under the General Points Test.

So far, the department has handled 730 of these applications, with 263 still to be assessed. Most of the successful applicants are from the finance and accounting, information technology and telecommunications sectors.

A high mark in the General Points Test does not guarantee selection, while those with a low score may not necessarily be turned down, Chan said.

Forty-six percent of successful applicants scored between 100 and 119 marks, while 27 percent scored between 80 and 99.

The holder of a doctoral degree scored 140 points in the assessment - but his specialty of "crude-oil drilling" is of little use in Hong Kong and his application was unsuccessful.

Another immigration scheme, the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme For Mainlanders, attracted 21,003 applications, 17,855 of which were approved.

On average, one quality migrant from the mainland can create 1.1 local job opportunities, Chan said.

But she said one of the problems is trying to assess some of the claims, such as patented innovations or new industries. For these, the department has to seek the advice of tertiary institutes and other government departments.
 
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