Majority of Hong Kongers Consider Leaving; the Places They’d Go

Between September 26 and October 2, 2019, Dalia Research conducted an online survey — a Lightning Poll — in Chinese with 550 participants to learn what the top destinations for Hong Kong people would be if they moved, and what their main motivations to move would be. The results show that 59% of respondents were very likely or somewhat likely to leave Hong Kong in the next 1 to 5 years.

On China’s National Day, October 1st, Hong Kong braced itself for yet another clash between demonstrators and the police force. As it turned out, this National Day, which happens to be the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, will go down in history as the day Hong Kong police shot a civilian for the first time, stealing the media spotlight from Beijing.
Hong Kong’s protests began in June as full-day marches that filled major corridors between the districts of Causeway Bay and Central, but they have since expanded throughout the city to commercial areas, shopping malls, and residential neighbourhoods.

A Goldman Sachs report estimates that at least $3 billion in investment had shifted from Hong Kong to Singapore in recent months. With no end in sight between the protestors and the government headed by an unpopular Carrie Lam, would people think about leaving?

Hong Kong takes 5 of the top 10 busiest international air routes by passenger traffic and the Hong Kong International Airport documented over 37 million arrivals and departures in 2018, over 5 times the city’s population. An article in the South China Morning Post from 2016 claims that about half the current Hong Kong Chinese population either have overseas passports themselves,or have family relations who do. We wanted to find out whether the extensive travel would translate to a desire to move, and if so, where?


Designing the Survey Questions



Dalia’s mobile responsive online survey delivery platform


Using the Dalia platform, we can ask people anywhere in the world questions that we deliver via the global Dalia network. This includes mobile phones, desktops, and even gaming consoles. As a result, we can conduct surveys with statistical significance (n=1000) as quickly as 24-hours, which we call Lightning Polls.

We were specifically interested in the sentiments of the Chinese-speaking majority, who make up over 90% of the population, so we conducted this Lightning Poll in Traditional Chinese. We asked respondents three simple questions:

If you left Hong Kong to live somewhere else, where would you move to?
Original: 假如你離開香港前往外地居住,你會選擇移居至哪裡?

Respondents could type in any geolocation (such as an address, city, country) and options would automatically appear as they would on Google Maps.

How likely do you think you’ll leave Hong Kong to live somewhere else in the next 1-5 years?
Original: 你認為在未來 1 – 5 年內,你有多大的可能性會離開香港前往外地居住?

Of the respondents who selected “Very likely” and “somewhat likely” to move, we asked them a follow-up question:

What would be your motives for moving to another country?
Original: 哪些原因會成為你移居海外的動機?


Hong Kongers’ Top Emigration Choices are Japan, Taiwan, and the US


香港移民去外地居住 日本 台灣 美國 加拿大 歐洲

You can further explore the map on Tableau

Our findings showed that the top destinations were in Japan (15%), Taiwan (15%), and the United States (12%). Other leading destinations are the United Kingdom (10%), Australia (7%) and Canada (6%), which have a history of migration from Hong Kong as Commonwealth countries.

Do these responses reflect immigration interest? Here’s a quick look at some other numbers:

  • The Hong Kong – Taipei air route is the 8th busiest in the world, carrying nearly 6.5 million passengers
  • Taiwan is Hong Kong’s top immigration destination by search volume (with 7500 monthly searches for “移民台灣“)
  • Australia and Canada immigration monthly searches come second with 4600 searches

Interest in Japan and the US are not reflected in actual search volume for immigration. This may be due to the fact that both countries are perceived to be difficult to attain citizenship. However, Japan coming in as the top destination does correlate with the country’s popularity as a travel destination, with 444 weekly direct flights in 2017, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Commission.

The fourth “destination” was Hong Kong (10%), suggesting that survey respondents may have intentionally made a statement about remaining in the city.

A final observation is that China tied with Singapore (4%) as an immigration destination, coming ahead of countries with large Chinese diasporas such as Thailand (2%), and Malaysia (2%).


The results also show that 59% of Hong Kong’s respondents say that they are very likely or somewhat likely to leave Hong Kong in the next 1 to 5 years. What’s more, respondents who are considering moving say that the city’s political situation (37%), personal safety (29%), civic freedoms (22%) and economic opportunities (22%) are cited as the main reasons to move.


Motivations for Leaving Hong Kong Differ Amongst Age Groups

All age groups have cited Hong Kong’s political situation as the main reason to move:

  • 39% for ages 18-30 
  • 39% for ages 31-45, and
  • 33% for ages 46 and above

However, the younger and older generations had differing priorities. Respondents 30 and under, who were born after the end of the Cold War and China’s economic reforms began, cited personal safety (31%) civic freedom (30%), the economic situation (26%) and career opportunities (24%). In contrast, 19% of respondents above ages 31 felt that civic freedoms was a reason to move.

The biggest gap between age groups in priorities is in escaping oppression or discrimination in my country and retirement. Whereas 22% of respondents between the ages of 18-30 cited escaping oppression as a reason to leave, only 7% of respondents age 46 and above have selected this reason. In contrast, 22% of older respondents considered emigration for retirement, in contrast to 3% younger respondents.


Dalia’s Democracy Perception Index published in June 2019 found that Hong Kong’s young people were far more dissatisfied with the state of democracy in the city than older generations. Part of the demands of protesters have been more democratic processes, such as a directly elected Chief Executive.
Since we conducted this Lightning Poll, Hong Kong’s protests have continued and there are over 2000 arrests to date and the government has not made changes to the electoral process. Hong Kong will be having local elections later this month and Dalia may conduct a follow-up interview on public sentiments. Please subscribe to our newsletter to follow our additional Lightning Polls covering topics around the globe!

Dalia’s online surveys are distributed to over 40,000 partners to be filled using desktop or mobile devices. For statistical significance, this survey has taken a sample of 500 individuals with distributions that match census data. If you have questions regarding the methodology of the survey, you can reach out directly to