HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong’s leader yesterday unveiled a new visa scheme to woo global talent, as the city seeks to stem a brain drain that has risked its status as an international financial centre.
Chief Executive John Lee said the new Top Talent Pass Scheme will allow those earning an annual salary of HKD2.5 million (USD318,472) or above and graduates from the world’s top universities to work or pursue opportunities in the city for two years.
Over the last two years, the city’s workforce has shrunk by about 140,000 people, Lee said.
“We must be more proactive and aggressive in competing for enterprises and competing for talent,” Lee said during his maiden policy address yesterday. “Apart from actively nurturing and retaining local talent, the government will pro-actively trawl the world for talent.”
He also announced a raft of proposals – including tax rebates and relaxed measures for hiring foreigners – to boost the city’s competitiveness.
Foreign new home buyers can receive a partial refund of the stamp duty – a tax levied on property purchases – on their first residential property purchase when they become a permanent resident.
Processes will also be streamlined for companies to employ foreigners in designated professions, with plans to set up a new task force to formulate recruitment strategies and provide support for newcomers.
Lee, a former security chief handpicked by Beijing to lead Hong Kong, is under pressure to reposition the city as a top business and financial hub, after an exodus of residents sparked fears that talent would continue leaving for rival cities like Singapore and Dubai.
The city’s population in mid-2022 dropped 1.6 per cent from a year earlier, falling by 113,200 residents, according to government statistics in August.
Singapore overtook Hong Kong in a ranking of global financial centres last month and in August announced a new visa that allows skilled, high-earning foreign talent to work for multiple firms at the same time, instead of just one employer.
Lee also addressed housing and national security policies.
To meet increasing housing demand in the world’s most expensive property market, Lee pledged to provide enough land to build 72,000 private residential apartments over the next five years.
He also said the government would speed up the development of public housing by introducing simpler layouts to reduce waiting time for applicants, who currently wait for an average of six years to get an apartment. Other measures include introducing a minimum size limit for new units.
New laws and regulations will also be implemented to regulate crowdfunding activities and enhance cybersecurity for critical infrastructure.