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Hong Kong student numbers fall 3% in sign of more migration amid security law

Student numbers in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools have dropped 3.27% year on year, a sign that more families have moved out of the city following Beijing’s imposition of a national security law last June.

The total number of students, excluding primary one and secondary one, fell to 572,896 in the current school year, which began last September, figures from the government’s Education Bureau showed. This was a decrease of 19,379 students, or 3.27%, from the 592,275 in the previous school year.

A sharper drop of 7.45% was observed at international and private schools, which had 65,624 students this year, compared with 70,909 previously, the figures showed.

A number of elite secondary schools have made the rare move of reopening admissions after the start of the academic year in September, indicating that some students have quit, leaving their hotly contested places vacant. Diocesan Girls’ School has lost 29 students between September and March.

Several primary schools, including Diocesan Boys’ School Primary Division, HKUGA Primary School and Pui Ching Primary School, earlier announced admission to different levels of class for the next school year.

Schools had seen more students leaving mid-term this school year, said Dion Chen, chair of the Hong Kong Direct Subsidy School Council, which represented 71 primary and secondary schools.

Some of them went to study abroad, while others were international school students who left Hong Kong for their home countries, Chen said.

It would be hard to tell when the outflow would peak, Chen said, because yet more students might depart after Australia and New Zealand reopened their borders as the COVID-19 pandemic eased. A new British visa program allowing Hongkongers to relocate to the United Kingdom might also affect admission for the next school year, he said.

Earlier this month, the Times newspaper reported that more than 35,000 Hongkongers had applied for a bespoke visa route set up for British National (Overseas) passport holders. The figure suggested that the U.K. government might have underestimated the total number of Hongkongers, which it had put at 300,000, who would use the visa over the next five years for eventual citizenship, the report said.

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