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  • James Tam

Hong Kong & Taiwan's "Brain Drain"

The following SCMP article doesn’t surprise me ( I think a severe “brain drain” has been going on for some time, as evidenced by the high proportion of intellectual dross in the community.

Historically, HK’s talent outflow was predominantly westward. Now it’s north and west. Both Taiwan and HK suffer a silent leakage of useful people. Silent because the more serious the depletion, the less we hear about it. The mainstream media don’t like the story, and the alternative voices are gone. Two million Taiwanese live in mainland China. Serious enough? Hush hush.

Before retirement, I had the terrible karma of being in charge of an incineration plant through the company’s Taiwan subsidiary. We went through five plant managers in six years. The first ones deserted Democratic Taiwan to serve “evil communist bandits”. The second-last was fired for being an outrageous crook. Finally, an English expatriate was lured to the post with a generous hardship allowance. By then, we couldn’t find a local person better qualified than a janitor to run the plant. We’d have paid any party acceptable to the government to take over the contract, but nearly no multinational was interested in having an operational presence in Taiwan. Another simple fact which defies the chimera promoted by the mainstream media. Research if you don’t believe me.

As usual, informed folks with a good brain and sound spirit enjoy higher mobility. They are also less inclined to waste time on fatuous debates with ideological fanatics and slogan parrots impervious to facts and ignorant of history. When the noise becomes unbearable, they seek better pastures elsewhere. Adios! Some say good riddance: These people have no principles! They have only money in mind! They serve undemocratic dictators etc. etc. Nobody bothers to retort. Those who think otherwise are gone, leaving behind a self-endorsing vocal unanimity. Look, 10% of Taiwanese have voted with their feet. Are they the worst of Taiwan? If so, after bleeding off this layer of greedy and unprincipled scumbags, the average human quality in Taiwan must have surged. Hey, congratulations! Well done boss!

Hong Kong’s situation is similar, but for a few fortuitous advantages. Our significance as a gateway of China has greatly diminished in the past decades, but the China-cake has expanded manifold at the same time, keeping this tiny place replete with opportunities. Furthermore, mainlanders and foreigners have been trickling in to replenish the leaky talent pool.

After decades of populist democracy, citizens in many Western countries are facing its economic and political consequences. The more adventurous and mobile are similarly leaving home to seek more exciting prospects elsewhere. Some end up in HK, which is still a friendly place for foreigners to grow new roots. These new immigrants tend to be young and spirited. Unlike their colonial predecessors, they live among the masses in tiny overpriced flats, biding their time. Together with mainland migrants, they have become a vital force on campuses as well as professional circles, maintaining Hong Kong’s colourful facade and entrepreneurial ambiance.

But fewer mainlanders are coming, and more are returning north. The SCMP writer correctly points to “xenophobia” as a main trigger, though “xenophobia” may not be the right word. It’s “auto-racism” — a pathetic rejection, even persecution, of one’s own kind for having worked harder, become better, and risen faster than oneself — which is causing Hong Kong’s endogenous decay.

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