The other day, an item in the South China Morning Post (no link, paid) reported how many fewer foreign nationals now live in Hong Kong. The report also carried some neat tables showing the numbers for the past five years.
SCMP gave its source as Hong Kong Immigration Department. I have since spent ages trying to track down the numbers and those nifty tables at the Immigration website. No find, not yet.
In the absence of which, a summary: Brits? Way down, from 17,780 in 2004 to 13,490. Canadians? Down. Australians? Same story. Americans? Slight drop in numbers. Others? Ditto. But what about Filipinos? The largest group of foreign nationals in Hong Kong? Down, down. Why? Filipino domestic helpers are being 'let go'. Why? To be replaced by those more easily exploitable: women from the farthest reaches of the Indonesian archipelago. Indonesians are way, way up.
Domestic helpers aside, none of the numbers include those who have gained 'permanent residence'. For all I know, the overall numbers may be up. Or down. Or the same. Moreover, it is not clear if or how the countless Hong Kong-born-but acquired-a-foreign-passport figure in the Immigration Department's number crunching.
Interpretation of statistics is a treacherous business.
Some people believe everyone is moving to Shanghai or Dubai. Good. That means fewer bellowing gweilos vomiting all over the place.
Oh, and next time someone asks you how many people live on a little island in the South China Sea. . . you'll be able to tell them: Hong Kong Census and Statistics (scroll down)