Hong Kong saw a net outflow of 89,200 residents year over year in June 2021.
It marks the city's biggest population decline since it started keeping track in 1961.
The government said the decline does not mean more Hong Kong residents are leaving the city permanently.
Close to 90,000 people left Hong Kong in the past year, marking a 1.2% decline in the city's population, according to data released Thursday by the city's Census and Statistics Department.
Hong Kong saw a net outflow of 89,200 residents year over year in June 2021, bringing its population to 7.39 million people. The decline includes natural decrease: Deaths outpaced births by 11,800 in the city. It marks the steepest single-year population decline since Hong Kong started maintaining records in 1961, reported AFP.
The financial center started seeing a decline between mid-2019 and mid-2020, when its population fell by 0.3%. That trend was further exacerbated when 2020 year-end data registered a decline of 1.2% on year, according to government data. Before that, data had showed a net increase in population in the last decade.
The population decline coincides with the Chinese government's tightened hold on the city, with the National Security Law rolled out a year ago in June. As of June 2021, 117 people have been arrested under the sweeping legislation, reported Reuters.
After the law was passed, the UK offered up to 5.4 million British National (overseas) visas in January to Hong Kong residents and their dependents, paving a way for citizenship. Within two months, more than 34,000 people had signed up for the scheme, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Hong Kong government said in the statement released Thursday that the population decline was expected, since it coincided with the pandemic and tough border restrictions that meant overseas Hong Kong residents could not return to the city state. It also cited a fall in the entry of foreign domestic workers, as well those coming for work and study.
"Hong Kong residents who had left Hong Kong before the pandemic may have chosen to remain outside Hong Kong or cannot return to Hong Kong due to flight unavailability. All these might have contributed to the net outflow of Hong Kong residents during the period," said a government spokesperson in the statement.
The department also said the decline does not necessarily mean that more Hong Kong residents are moving overseas permanently.
"Net movement, which includes the movement of Hong Kong residents into and out of Hong Kong for various purposes including work and study, is conceptually different from immigration and emigration," the spokesperson said.
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