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The Hong Kong Attraction: Do I Stay Or Do I Go?
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Ten years ago, Feng Jian was just an ordinary high school student in Beijing.

Ten years later, Feng became a registered permanent resident of Hong Kong due to his 7 years as a student and worker. His passport entitles him to visa-free treatment from more countries and regions. He also feels a firm connection to his adopted city. "I don't know why I have feeling of loss even though I am entitled to the Hong Kong resident status. Are seven years of my life a good exchange for a piece of status identified paper?" Feng would ask himself. He is always in a quandary, wondering what his life would be like if he had made different choices.

Feng went to study in Hong Kong in 2001. At first he felt very lonely because he didn't understand Cantonese. "But I got used to everything during my seven years there," he said. Now Feng has a pretty good job in Hong Kong and he can communicate with others in fluent Cantonese.

Thousands of Chinese mainland students have graduated from Hong Kong universities during the past 10 years. Some of them have become Hong Kong registered permanent residents. Some have taken Hong Kong as a springboard to go elsewhere. Some have returned to the Chinese mainland with a broader perspective. But some have ended their journey feeling discomfort toward their studies, their daily life and their choice.

Why stay in Hong Kong?

According to the statistics of the Hong Kong Association of Mainland Graduates, the annual growth in the number of Chinese mainland undergraduates and graduate students studying in Hong Kong has reached nearly 1,000 since 2002. In 2006 it increased to 5,000. Currently more than 14,000 Chinese mainland youth are studying there.

On July 29, the Hong Kong Association of Mainland Graduates released the "Mainland Talents Development Report in Hong Kong 2007". This study examines attitudes of Chinese mainland students in Hong Kong.

The report shows that 87 percent of the interviewed students feel generally satisfied while 40 percent feel that they are studying under intense pressure.

Concern revolves around the fact that nearly 99 percent of the respondents choose to stay in Hong Kong instead of returning to the Chinese mainland. This figure is 9 percentage points higher than the 2006 figure. Class mobility, freedom of speech and an efficient lifestyle are the main elements students listed as reasons they want to stay. Conversely, inadequate work experience and weak social relations both appear as obstacles.

Students hope to work for investment banks, trade and media. Corporate management is the preferred sector. Telecommunications, biomedicine and other hi-tech industries, as well as law and real estate, lag behind as prime choices.

The fact that Hong Kong employers are eager to hire  Chinese mainland students is another reason students stay. In August 2001, the Hong Kong government passed a law that benefited a total of 1,078 Chinese mainland students working in Hong Kong to date.

The report also shows that 43 percent of the respondents feel satisfied with their careers in Hong Kong and 15 percent feel very satisfied. The majority of respondents believe that their Chinese mainland background combined with their professional skills will provide them with a competitive edge for a long-term stay in Hong Kong. Among the surveyed employers, nearly half of them have employed Chinese mainland talents. Most of the posts are at the senior level and not suitable for graduates seeking entry-level positions.

The report becomes particularly interesting when surveying talents from three different backgrounds: 56.5 percent of employers in Hong Kong put Chinese mainland talents who received education in Hong Kong as their first choice and local talents as the second. 85.7 percent of the employers were unwilling to engage people with a mainland-only education.

What makes us pay more attention is that the first batch of graduates from the Chinese mainland has been legally eligible for Hong Kong permanent residency since 2006. This expanding group will face localization and integration challenges in the near future.

Li Huan, the editor-in-chief of the "Mainland Talents Development Report in Hong Kong", told International Herald Leader recently that this is the third consecutive year they have published the development report. He wants to educate the local community regarding these concerns. "2009 will be a peak year when Chinese mainland people in Hong Kong get their permanent residence. As the group gets larger and larger, they need somewhere to reflect on their needs and requirements," Li Huan said.

(China.org.cn by Fan Cong, August 11, 2007)

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