HONG KONG HIT BY BRAIN DRAIN AS CHINESE RULE IS APPROACHING

HONG KONG HIT BY BRAIN DRAIN AS CHINESE RULE IS APPROACHING

With Chinese rule nine years off, many of Hong Kong's brightest people are moving overseas. Local leaders are growing increasingly concerned.

Immigration visa applications are up sharply and businesses report a rise in the number of professionals resigning to emigrate before 1997, when this British colony reverts to Chinese sovereignty and rule from Beijing.No one knows quite how extensive the problem is, but it's certainly a problem, said Jimmy D. McGregor, director of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. As 1997 approaches, this problem becomes more acute.

To a large degree, he added, It's the perception of China which is causing people to make that decision to go.

Hong Kong, a capitalistic speck on China's southeastern coast, enjoys one of Asia's highest standards of living.

The Communist government in Beijing has promised the territory can retain its capitalist system for 50 years after 1997 and enjoy a High degree of autonomy.

But a high percentage of Hong Kong's 5.7 million people are refugees from China and many are skeptical about Beijing's promises.

A recent poll by Survey Research Hong Kong, an independent market research company, indicated one-fifth of Hong Kong's 1.5 million families have at least one member with foreign residency rights or with the intent to obtain such rights from other countries.

Many of the people planning to leave are skilled professionals and business executives; companies are noticing increased emigration among top- level employees.

The problem area is in the executive level, said Michael Broadbent, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the colony's premier bank. About 8 percent of the bank's 670 locally hired executives resigned to emigrate last year, compared with 3 percent the year before, he said.

Yes, we are concerned about it. No, we are not unduly alarmed. Nobody likes to lose qualified people who you've invested a lot of time and money in training.