In an attempt to resolve the brain drain subsequent to the passage of the National Security Law, John Lee launched in October the Top Talent Scheme that grants qualified high-earners and graduates from the top 100 foreign universities a 2-year working visa without having to secure a job offer prior to entering Hong Kong. 12,000 out of 20,000 applicants have been approved so far. According to the Director of Immigration, nearly 95% of the approved applicants were from mainland China while 3% hailed from Canada, Australia, the US and Singapore. Looking ahead, the Labor and Welfare Bureau plans to add more Chinese institutions to the list of approved universities.
The influx of mainland talent to Hong Kong is a major boon for efforts by Beijing to integrate Hong Kong into the so-called “Greater Bay Area” project, which seeks to link Hong Kong with ten mainland Chinese cities together into a unified business and financial hub. This government scheme is consistent with China’s long standing practice of transferring masses of people along with their culture to its autonomous regions as part of an economic integration process. On the other hand, the fact that 95% of new inductees are from mainland China shows the limits of the Hong Kong government’s international outreach and propaganda efforts, which have focused heavily on attracting talent from around the world.