A 2018 report by property site 99.co revealed that a buyer with S$2 million could afford a 1,000 sq ft flat at Cairnhill Circle, located near Orchard. But the same amount could only buy a 448 sq ft flat in Hong Kong’s Kennedy Town.
There is also a strong sense of safety and security due to the tight rule of law, and there is more stability here in Singapore.Other factors such as the low crime rate and absence of natural disasters were a draw for George Chan, a Hongkonger who relocated to Singapore last year with his wife and their two-year-old son.
“Growing up in a more cosmopolitan environment would help [my son] be better equipped for the future that will be more and more globalised,” added 38-year-old Chan, who works in the finance industry. “The recent chaos also reaffirmed my decision.”
A HISTORY OF MIGRATION
While many Hongkongers descended from families that emigrated from mainland China, the city’s residents themselves are also known for being emigrants.
From the 1980s, emigration increased, fuelled by alarm at the Tiananmen Square crackdown
in 1989, when troops fired on student-led pro-democracy protesters, and Hong Kong’s impending return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
A report by The Atlantic in 1991 quoted former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen
as saying that about 20,000 Hongkongers had left the city each year in the 1980s, rising to 40,000 in 1989 and then 62,000 in 1990.
Why Macau has been spared from Hong Kong’s political turmoil
Many of them went to Canada, where 241,095 Hong Kong-born residents lived in 1996. Canadian census data points to the possibility that thousands of Hongkongers who obtained Canadian citizenship did eventually return to Hong Kong, but researchers suggest there is a new trend of them heading back West, as they feel stifled by Beijing’s tightening hold over the city.
Singapore did try to capitalise on the outflow of Hongkongers, with founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew
addressing the issue in his 1989 National Day Rally speech.
Lee said the bid to attract foreign talent was “for the sake of Singapore’s economy, society and politics” and promised it “would not disadvantage any Singaporean climbing the social ladder”.
Singapore then introduced the landed permanent residence (PR) scheme for people from Hong Kong just before 1997, wrote former civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow in his book A Mandarin and the Making of Public Policy: Reflections .
He said the “few” Hongkongers who accepted residency bought public sector flats then sold them on the resale market for a capital gain once prices rose. Most eventually gave up their permanent residency.
While Singapore has yet to be a top choice for Hongkongers looking to relocate, the head of property consultant Knight Frank Singapore, Tay Kah Poh, said: “It’s likely that investors could just pick up assets in a destination country as an insurance policy first, and as a diversification ploy.”
The executive director added that Only if the domestic situation becomes untenable will they move to Singapore.
Knight Frank sold four properties in Singapore to Hongkongers in May and two last month.
Foo of OrangeTee & Tie agreed that Hongkongers would assess the situation at home before making a big move, so it made sense for there to be a time gap between the rise in interest and actual sales.
Properties are big-ticket items and that Transactions will take time to materialise said Christine Li, head of research for Southeast Asia at real estate services firm Cushman and Wakefield.
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