Attractive HK approves 90% of applications for global talent scheme: official
Published: Jan 19, 2023 10:09 PM
HKSAR Secretary for Labor and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han Photo: VCG

HKSAR Secretary for Labor and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han Photo: VCG

Talent-hungry Hong Kong has so far processed more than 70 percent of applications for the new scheme the city rolled out to draw top global talent, of which 90 percent has been approved, said the city's Secretary for Labor and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han.

As of last Saturday, Hong Kong has received roughly 5,800 applications for its Top Talent Pass Scheme, which was launched on December 28, 2022. More than 4,000 applications have been processed so far; and among them, 90 percent have been approved, Sun said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Sun said the overwhelming response to the scheme speaks volumes about the attraction of Hong Kong for global talent. 

The new Top Talent Pass Scheme offers a two-year visa to applicants who earned at least HK$2.5 million ($428,000) in the past year or graduates from the world's top 100 universities who have worked for at least three years in the past five years.

Sun also revealed that the Hong Kong government is going to review the scheme in a year's time and make adjustments, as the scheme needs to serve for the social and economic development purposes and has to incorporate feedback of the local people.

The flooding applications to the financial center's new scheme also blunted some Western media's talking down of the brain drain partly due to its COVID-19 measures in this city for the past three years. 

Since January 8, the borders between Hong Kong and Chinese mainland have been reopened. Although daily caps have been placed on visitors traveling each way around, it is widely seen by Hong Kong society as a good sign for economic recovery.

Sun believed that the reopening of borders, the new talent scheme and the removal of corporate restrictions are the city's aggressive and direct approach to attract talent. 

After having traveled to several Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and Philippines last week in a bid partly to trawl top talent, Sun said talent in Southeast Asia have a keen interest in going to Hong Kong. 

"When I introduced our new measures as well as the new scheme, they were thrilled because it's a testimony to the very well established advantage of Hong Kong as an international financial center with best infrastructure in the world, our geographical strategic location and also all the things associated with the metropolis," according to Sun. 

Singapore was put on the competition table with Hong Kong as many claimed that the "brain drain" in Hong Kong became a big win for Singapore.

But Sun believed that Hong Kong and Singapore are more complimentary rather than competing with each other. Yet he believed that Hong Kong has its uniqueness in attracting talent, as "[Hong Kong] is not just over a certain city, but the unique advantage of Hong Kong. If you are looking for opportunities in the mainland, there's no other place for you to go except Hong Kong."

Foreign talent remains a crucial part of Hong Kong's talent pool. Hong Kong's chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu, in his first speech in October last year, set out the administration's priorities for the upcoming year, announcing various measures to attract both global talent and businesses, including special visa schemes to help such individuals enter the city.

Sun believes Hong Kong hasn't lost its sheen to foreign talent because of the removal of corporate restrictions, and the growth prospect. "[The growth prospect is] not just here in Hong Kong, but a long term growth prospect of our whole country."

According to Bloomberg, economists are upgrading their forecasts for Hong Kong this year as the city accelerates its reopening with the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey by 12 economists earlier this month was a forecast of 3.3 percent growth for 2023, higher than the initial 2.7 percent forecast in a survey by 25 economists in November.

"This is the right moment for us to attract people from all over the world into Hong Kong," said Sun, noting that the message is "Now we are reopening, we are going to be very aggressive in our bid to attract talent from all over the world to Hong Kong."