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Back to Hong Kong: Return migration or transnational sojourn? - page 7 / 33





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and Vancouver, the closest global city landfall on the American

continent. Hong Kong, with its special and ephemeral constitutional

status both in the past and in the present, is inherently transnational,

“not so much a place as a space in transit” (Abbas 1997: 4). From the

mid-1980s, alarmed at geopolitical futures in East Asia, tens of

thousands of middle-class residents left Hong Kong. In part they were

enticed by encouraging immigration policy in Canada, Australia, New

Zealand, Singapore, and to a lesser degree Britain and the United States.

Canada in particular ran a pro-active immigration programme that

recruited economic migrants from East Asia, and 380,000 migrants from

Hong Kong arrived between 1980 and 2001, including 100,000 receiving

visas through the business immigration streams, and another 64,000

securing entry as skilled workers. The numbers leaving the British

colony and making the crossing to Canada reached a peak of over 44,000

in 1994 and for a decade Hong Kong was the leading immigrant source to

Canada, and particularly its Pacific province of British Columbia.2

Fearful of closer ties with China in 1997, and precipitated by the

Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, many made the crossing for

geopolitical reasons. We were told by one Hong Kong returnee that:

I moved to Canada in 1989, when the Beijing massacre happened.

But actually my parents already had the intention of moving to

Canada to secure a better future for us. They were really

concerned about Communist China and what that implied for

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