Fed up with the oppressive governance of President Xi Jinping's regime, the elite and middle class of China are making desperate attempts to flee the country and seek political asylum in other countries.
People do not want to live in China as they continually face challenges dealing with Jinping's regime, reported Hong Kong Post. Among the reasons for seeking asylum are China's brutal crackdowns on minority communities, free speech-seekers, academicians, activists, and even business tycoons and celebrities.
The most recent example is China's harsh COVID-19 policies. The stringent lockdowns and government high-handedness during the Covid-19 pandemic have only aggravated the problem as it also hurts people's livelihoods.
These stern policies have forced the middle class to look for another country to live and hence the mass exodus.
Getting asylum is an uphill task for the Chinese people. Yet, the number of applications has seen a sudden rise in the past three years.
As per the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the annual number of asylum seekers from China was 15,362 in 2012. However, it continued to grow at a high rate and increased to 1,08,071 in 2020.
The situation seems to be nearing out of control as it appears to have crossed 1,20,000-mark this year. The total number of people applying for asylum during Jinping's rule has been over 6,13,000.
It is not just in mainland China but also in Hong Kong where the repercussions of China's human rights violations can be seen. People are making desperate attempts to get settled abroad, especially in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada.
Speaking about the mood on the ground, Ivy Cui, who runs an immigration agency in Shanghai, said people were in panic mode and wanted to leave China as soon as possible.
China's draconian restrictions have instilled deep resentment among the Chinese. Xi Jinping's authoritarian rule, and crackdowns on public dissent and freedom of speech has only added insult to injury.
From business to education to entertainment, Jinping has tried to strengthen its clutches in every key area. This encroachment has displeased a wide section of society. Billionaires are renouncing their citizenship.
More than 500 elite citizens had left China by 2020. Now many such rich businessmen are in the process to settle elsewhere as repression in the name of Covid-19 management has grown manifold.
Safeguard Defenders, a human rights organisation, said the number of asylum seekers from China had grown at an alarming level thanks to the more oppressive system of governance. It said many Chinese moved to democratic countries, especially to the rival country US.
Internet searches for topics like 'immigration', 'how to move to Canada' are quite rampant in China in recent times. A new trend has emerged- 'runxue', the study of how to get out of China for good.
"The city we live in should make us feel safe. For whatever reason, if its citizens are constantly in a state of anxiety and feel they can no longer count on the city for their well-being and livelihood, it is betrayal," reads a post on the social media platform WeChat.
Kathy Huang, a consultant with the think-tank Council on Foreign Relations, said not just elites but even the middle class is looking for an alternative to their unsatisfactory life in China.
"The sudden spike in interest indicated by the search engines and the immigration consultancies tells us that a much bigger population, most likely those in the middle class, is starting to consider it after the lockdown," she said, as per the media portal.
Not only the Chinese citizens but also foreigners living in China too are leaving the country due to the rigorous lockdowns and rising anti-west sentiments.
According to data, Shanghai saw a reduction of 20 per cent, from 2,08,000 in 2011 to about 1,63,000 in 2021 while Beijing witnessed a decline of 40 per cent to around 63,000 foreign residents in a decade.
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