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This is not how some Hong Kong émigrés see it. Aaron Ng Ka-hing, 30, moved to Australia in 2002 to study Business. He found a job in Australia soon after graduation, so he stayed.

He now lives in Melbourne and runs an online retail platform. From time to time, he considers seeking investment opportunities in Hong Kong. However, the Hong Kong political environment often discourages him from doing so. “There are many uncertainties in the policies. I cannot see which direction the new government is leading Hong Kong,” Ng says.

Among his list of concerns, Ng cites intensifying political conflicts, the hegemony of the property developers and an imbalanced economic structure that is skewed towards the financial sector. “There are too many grievances. The political environment is unstable and there is a lot of negative news. [A place like that] can’t hold on to dynamic people.”

But as many young people dream of leaving, or are even making concrete plans to do so, some are opting to come back.

Doris Cheung Pui-ying, 30, returned to Hong Kong after living in Canada for 15 years. She has swapped a three-storey townhouse in Canada for an 18 sq ft bedroom in the flat where she now lives with her family. She made the move for her career. “I have been in the same position for six years [as a manager in Canada] but I always wanted to earn more,” she says. Cheung thinks there are more business opportunities in Hong Kong.

Coming back has been harder than she expected. The marked reduction in living space is not the biggest problem, rather it has been her difficulty in adapting to local people’s values. “Hong Kong people are more snobby,” she says. Recalling a gathering with friends and their colleagues, Cheung says: “One of the first things they asked me was where I lived, I answered Tsing Yi. After that, they didn’t bother to pay attention to me.”

Cheung has also noticed that people are generally more disgruntled. “When I read the papers and listen to the news, it seems the whole society has become more negative than it used to be. It used to be happier.”

Despite all these obstacles, Cheung is willing to stay in Hong Kong to strive for a better life after she retires – to Canada. Deep in her heart, Canada is still her real home. “I should grab the opportunities when I am young, then I will enjoy my life in Canada.”

Edited by Caleb Ho