Long before the school year began, Chim Hon Ming, a primary school principal in Hong Kong, knew this year’s student body would be smaller. The city’s birthrate had already been falling, and families were increasingly frustrated by Hong Kong’s strict pandemic restrictions and the political turmoil.
Even he was not prepared for the extent of the exodus. When school started last month in his district of western Hong Kong Island, the first-grade classes were about 10 percent smaller than the previous year’s — a decrease of more than 100 students.
“This drop came so quickly,” Mr. Chim said.
As Hong Kong has been battered by two years of upheaval, between the pandemic and a sweeping political crackdown from Beijing, many of the consequences have been immediately visible. Businesses have shuttered, politicians have been arrested, tourists have disappeared. One major change is just coming into focus: some residents’ determination that the city is no longer where they want to raise their children.
Last year, Hong Kong experienced a population drop of 1.2 percent, its biggest since the government began keeping records in the 1960s. From July 2020, when China imposed a national security law, through the following July, more than 89,000 people left the city of 7.5 million, according to provisional government data.