Recent reports from China say that at least 1,562 Hong Kong civil society jobs have been lost so far to the government’s crackdown on dissent under a Beijing-imposed national security law, according to the data compiled by Bloomberg News drawn from phone calls and emails to impacted parties and local news reports. Last year, more than 60 organisations, including media companies, trade unions, political bodies, and religious and human rights groups, were disbanded under intense pressure from the national security police.
Many of the newly unemployed have struggled to find jobs or were forced to change professions, according to interviews with a dozen people who lost their jobs. Some have become taxi drivers or food delivery workers, while one person has opened a fried chicken restaurant. A former Apple Daily writer said applicants to his consultancy firm often ask if he had been arrested, too. Others have quit the city entirely.
Those who leave Hong Kong often face language barriers while those who stay must deal with the stigma of a national security probe, said Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA).
In an emailed statement responding to questions, the Hong Kong government said the security law had “restored stability and increased the confidence in Hong Kong, thereby allowing the city to resume its normal operation and return to the path of development”.
“In 2021, the number of business operations in Hong Kong with parent companies outside Hong Kong and the number of start-ups in Hong Kong both reached record highs,” the government statement added. “All these will also contribute to additional job opportunities for the people of Hong Kong.”
The European Parliament debated on Wednesday a non-binding resolution calling for, among other things, sanctions on top Hong Kong officials for implementing a crackdown on human rights in the city, citing the closing of some 60 civil society and media organisations as evidence.
According to Bloomberg News data, Hong Kong’s job losses, some 1,115 or 71% of jobs, include full-time and part-time positions. It means, about 20% of media workers for Chinese-language organisations in the city have lost their jobs in the last 12 months.
Stand News, which chronicled the pro-democracy protests in 2019, announced last month it would immediately close and lay off all staff after national security police raided the online portal’s newsroom – a loss of 60 jobs. Less than a week later, Citizen News shut down amid security fears, losing another 40 jobs. The latest closures came six months after the shutdown of Apple Daily and its parent company, Next Digital Ltd, which stripped the city of some 1,000 jobs.