(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Nathan Law said the UK will continue to be a popular destination for the Chinese city’s emigrants amid a crackdown on dissent. 

“The influx of Hong Kong people into the UK, especially those talented young people and young families” is going to “keep going,” Law, a former elected politician who fled to London just before Beijing introduced its national security law, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

“They don’t mind to start from a more fundamental position in a company,” and aren’t likely to leave the UK once they settle given the difficulties of starting over in a new country, Law said. This means Hong Kong’s brain drain will continue, said Law, who was granted asylum in the UK in 2021 and faces arrest if he returns to his former home.

At least 150,600 Hong Kongers have applied for the British National (Overseas) visa program that is a pathway to UK citizenship. The visa was announced by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in July 2020. The number is slightly less than halfway to the 320,000 that British officials estimated would apply in the first five years, with the number of applicants decreasing each quarter. 

The BN(O) exodus contributed to Hong Kong’s largest population decline in at least six decades, a trend fueled by the security law and nearly three years of strict Covid curbs. In the two years through June 2022, the city’s population fell by about 216,000, or 2.8%, to 7.3 million.

On Hong Kong’s business environment, Law said companies that already have operations in mainland China are likely to remain in the city. Yet the changed political environment in Hong Kong is “a big concern for many of the people who want a more risk-free way of doing business,” he said. 

The number of US companies with regional headquarters in the city has fallen to the lowest number since 2002, according to data released by the Census and Statistics Department dating back to 1991. In 2021, the Biden administration issued an advisory warning to American businesses about the risk of doing business in the city amid it’s “new legal landscape.” 

Law said it’s important to continue to fight for those arrested in Hong Kong, even if the global focus has shifted toward Russia and the war in Ukraine. 

“China is challenging the rest of the world about its ideology, about its global international system,” Law said. “It’s really important to keep raising awareness for political prisoners in Hong Kong, human rights violations in Hong Kong.”

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