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Health & Families

Quarter of HK people want to move over bad air: survey

About 25 percent of Hong Kong's population wants to leave the city to escape its notoriously polluted air, which has been described as a health crisis, said a survey released Monday.

The report by public policy think tank Civic Exchange found that one in four people living in the teeming financial hub are considering emigrating over fears that its bad air could affect their health.

That was an increase from the one in five people who wanted to leave Hong Kong in a similar survey two years ago, the study said.

"The responses to this survey paint a bleak picture of Hong Kong, in which more and more people have given up complaining and started packing their bags," said the report, entitled "Less Talk, More Action".

"A problem that drives a quarter of the population to consider emigrating is truly staggering."

About 1,000 people, including 400 professional drivers, were interviewed for the survey.

In March, the city of seven million recorded its first "severe" roadside pollution warning in a decade, when a toxic soup of particulates fuelled by a massive sandstorm in Beijing shrouded its famed skyline for several days.

The pollution levels prompted schools to keep students indoors, with most cancelling outdoor playground activities and off-campus trips.

Air pollution has become an increasing public health and economic headache for Hong Kong authorities, as green groups have warned that the problem would force talented professionals to leave.

Earlier this year, Hong Kong's leading authority on air pollution, Anthony Hedley, announced that he was leaving the city for the Isle of Man in Britain to find clean air to try to keep his respiratory problems under control.

Emissions from the factory belt in southern China over Hong Kong's northern border combined with local emissions from power plants and transport have generated a thick blanket of haze over the city in recent years.

The government said it has stepped up efforts to cut vehicle emissions, including tax breaks for users of environmentally-friendly hybrid cars.

In March, a group of Hong Kong businesses - including Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, Ben & Jerry's and Pure Fitness - launched an unprecedented petition campaign to combat Hong Kong's worsening air pollution.