“In Hong Kong, the party is over”

Some are preparing for a permanent departure, others – more optimistic – will try to stay: long-time expatriates in Hong Kong have delivered to the Times their feelings about the city’s future as China’s stranglehold tightens across the board.

Before, expatriates who opted for Hong Kong appreciated its work and party culture galore. Exhausting days at the office were offset by long evenings spent dining and sipping cocktails in glamorous bars – more or less – but also by weekend trips to heavenly Thai beaches. But the party is over.

The charm of the city was due in particular to the ease with which one could travel in the region and beyond. But things have changed since the start of the pandemic, when Hong Kong put in place the strictest border control measures in the world. Since March 2020, non-residents are no longer allowed to enter Hong Kong and anyone arriving in the country, regardless of their vaccination status, must undergo two to three weeks of quarantine in a hotel. approved by the authorities. Today, the best hotels are fully booked until the summer, despite exorbitant prices: senior executives, for example, pay 180,000 Hong Kong dollars to stay 21 days at the Mandarin Oriental – a salty addition knowing that the customer is not guaranteed to have a view of the port and that he must remain confined to his room, deprived of a swimming pool and spa.

All this tarnishes the charms of this city once considered the Holy Grail of assignment cities among expats. Say goodbye to business class flights to attend a meeting in London. Today, expats suffer from not being able to be alongside their elderly parents and not seeing their children in boarding school grow up.

“It’s absurd to stay here, out of the game”

Bettina Schael, who holds an international position in a Hong Kong bank, did not see her children at Christmas. It was the coup de grace. Also, after spending a stressful year navigating draconian travel rules and quarantines, this mother of four has decided to leave Hong Kong – three of them are studying in the UK:

If your children are younger and they live with you, that’s fine. But if they’re older and studying abroad, if you have elderly parents, that’s another story.”

She did not take this decision lightly. Her ties are strong with the city: born in Hong Kong to expatriate parents, she attended an international school there and raised her offspring. But the travel restrictions have made his family life impossible in addition to devilishly disrupting his professional life. She explains :

If you have an international activity and you are competing with people who can travel all over the world, it is absurd to stay here, out of the game. I have teams that I have not yet met . And things don’t seem to be getting any better.”

Bettina Schael expects a wave of finance professionals to leave town after the annual bonuses are paid out at the end of March. But also that the numbers of the schools


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