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More Than 1 Million People Consider Leaving Polluted Hong Kong

Sun2Surf – Jan 6, 2009

Hong Kong – More than 1 million people are considering leaving Hong Kong because of its worsening air quality, according to a university study published Tuesday.

The potential exodus from the city of 6.9 million would be far greater than the numbers who considered leaving in the run-up to Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, pressure group Civic Exchange warned.

Interviews with 1,000 people suggest that between 700,000 and 1.4 million people are so worried about Hong Kong’s air quality that they are either considering or making plans to leave.

The survey, published in Tuesday’s South China Morning Post and Hong Kong Standard newspapers, indicates that locals as well as expatriates believe the city’s smog is becoming too much of a health hazard to live with.

Speaking on government-run radio station RTHK Tuesday, Civic Exchange chief executive Christine Loh described the findings of the study, conducted by the city’s Baptist University, as “shocking.”

“Nearly half a million people are seriously considering or actually making plans to leave Hong Kong, not just considering it,” she said. “These are huge, huge numbers.

“We are not just talking about expatriates. Only 3 per cent of the sample were non-Chinese. Ninety per cent of the people surveyed have also heard co-workers talking of leaving. We are talking about a broad sweep of Hong Kong people.”

The survey showed that Hong Kong’s image had been dented not only overseas by worsening air quality but also in the minds of people who live and work in the city, Loh said.

Air quality in Hong Kong has deteriorated significantly since the early 1990s, largely because of factory pollution blowing into the city from neighbouring industrial southern China.

Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader Donald Tsang has pledged to tackle the issue, describing it in one speech as “a matter of life and death”, but air quality in the high-rise city has continued to deteriorate.

Figures released last week found that the number of days in which roadside air quality in Hong Kong reached dangerous levels was up almost one fifth in 2008 compared to the previous year. – dpa

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