“If the specific needs of international schools cannot be rapidly addressed, this will very likely trigger decisions of families (not just expatriates) to leave Hong Kong in the coming weeks,” wrote the chairmen of the two chambers, Rebeca Silli (France) and Peter Burnett (British).
“This will very likely trigger decisions of families… to leave Hong Kong”
Around 9.5% of Hong Kong’s population, numbering around 690,000 people, are foreign or non-Hong Kong Chinese, according to a 2016 census.
The population of the city declined by 0.1% in the last half of 2019 following months of protests, the first time it has seen a decline in two decades. About half of Hong Kong’s foreign population work in a domestic capacity, but the city retains a large financial and business sector to whose children international schools cater.
While the government has announced subsidies for schools, along with a host of other businesses – bus companies, for example, have been feeling the knock-on effect of school closures – it has earmarked just HKD $20,000 (£1,985) for each international school.
The South China Morning Post reported that some private kindergartens were struggling after parents failed to pay tuition fees. This may also come to affect international schools if tuition fees for this semester are withheld.
Whether schools will allow cross-boundary students living in Guangdong province to return to classes at the same time as other students is still uncertain, though there is likely to be pushback against this from Hong Kong parents if the virus continues to spread.
“When we decide whether we will resume classes we will have to make sure that it’s safe for all students to do so, as well [assess] as the impact of having the cross-boundary students coming over to Hong Kong to attend classes,” said the government in a statement.
“It will also depend on the situation at that time of the epidemic both in Hong Kong and Shenzhen… We are still considering different options and have not made any final decision yet.”
Many upcoming exams have been cancelled by the government. However, the written university entrance exams will go ahead on March 27.
Meanwhile in Malaysia, parents are reportedly unhappy after Nord Anglia sent a number of students unable to return to their schools on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong to the British International School in Kuala Lumpur.