Supporting Article

Recent Chinese Migration Trends in Australia


For over a century, Chinese individuals from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan have established vibrant communities in Australia. As of 2021, the Chinese diaspora in Australia numbers 1.4 million, accounting for 5.5% of the population,1 a figure that continues to rise.

This article focuses on the recent trends in Chinese migration in Australia, with special attention on the steady growth of the PRC migrant community, the largest among the Chinese group. Additionally, we note a significant uptick in migration from Hong Kong since 2020. The article concludes with insights into the challenges and opportunities this presents for the church in Australia today.

Recent Migration Trends from the PRC

Migration from the PRC to Australia has continued to increase steadily in recent years. At the end of June 2021, 595,630 Chinese-born people were living in Australia, 53.7% more than the figure on June 30, 2011 (387,420). This makes the Chinese-born population the third-largest migrant community in Australia after the United Kingdom and India.

They constitute 7.9% of Australia’s overseas-born population and 2.3% of the total population. The median age of permanent migrants is 39.7, and more women are migrating than men (56% women, 44% men). Between 2018–19 and 2022–23, approximately 20,000 permanent migration places were granted each year to those from mainland China (Table 1).2

In addition to permanent migrants, many Mainland Chinese enter Australia as temporary migrants, primarily as visitors or students. Students from the PRC had been the largest source country for student visa grants from 2009–10 until they were surpassed by India in 2022–23, despite a record 98,506 PRC student visas granted that year. (Table 1).3

Recent Hong Kong Migration to Australia: A Tripling of Permanent Migration

Increased migration from Hong Kong has been particularly noteworthy in recent years, especially since 2020. The anti-extradition law social protests in 2019 and the introduction of the National Security Law in mid-2020 are major reasons.4 Since then, Australia, along with other countries such as the UK and Canada, has offered new immigration pathways for migrants from Hong Kong to settle permanently. As a result, there has been a marked rise in the number of Hong Kong migrants in Australia. This marked increase resulted in Hong Kong being listed as eighth in the countries providing the greatest number of permanent migrants to Australia in 2021–22.5

By the end of June 2021, 104,990 people born in Hong Kong were residing in Australia, a 22.1% increase from the figure on June 30, 2011 (85,990). This makes the Hong Kong-born population the fifteenth largest migrant community in Australia. They constitute 1.4% of Australia’s overseas-born population and 0.4% of the total population. The median age of permanent migrants is 43.3 with more women migrating than men (52.4% women, 47.6% men).6

From 2020–21 onwards, the number of permanent migration places granted to Hong Kong nationals has markedly increased, particularly in the “business innovation and investment” and global talent (independent) categories.7 Between 2019–20 and 2020–21, the number of permanent migrants approximately tripled from 1,391 to 4,312 places granted. This trend continued in 2021–22 with 4,237 places granted.8 However, the actual size of the permanent migration intake from China remains much larger than that from Hong Kong (Table 1).

In terms of temporary migration, the highest numbers came from visitor and student visas. Student visas granted between 2018–2022 have shown no marked increase each year, with approximately 4,000 student visas being granted each year from Hong Kong. Recently, however, some mature migrants (aged 35 years and over) have also been opting for the study visa route after Australia introduced temporary graduate visas, which allow eligibility for permanent residency after living in the country for three to four years.9

Temporary migrants (visitors) to Australia from Hong Kong (and the PRC) have decreased significantly since 2017–19, mainly due to the impact of border closures in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Australia. However, there are indications that these numbers are beginning to show signs of recovery. For example, see the number of temporary migrants from the PRC in Table 1. The Department of Home Affairs reported general increases in the number of permanent places and temporary visas granted in 2022–23, which “was the first full financial year for the borders to be fully open to international travelers since 2018–19.”10

Permanent Migrants     
 PRC     24,282  18,587  22,20718,24023,936
Hong Kong       1,647    1,391    4,312  4,237  4,033
Temporary Migrants     
PRC (Total)1,057,896637,509106,267111,512 
PRC (Visitors)   938,136544,817  38,844 44,348271,550
PRC (Students)     84,819  67,841  55,157 53,629  98,506
Hong Kong (Total)    185,510 131,639    6,370 16,544  78,645
Hong Kong (Visitors)    177,835124,438    1,111   9,584  72,301
Hong Kong (Students)        4,374    4,558    3,838   4,290    6,344
Table 1: Permanent and Temporary (visitor and student) visas granted since 2018–1911

The Geographic Spread

Most permanent and temporary Chinese migrants, from both the PRC and Hong Kong, settle in either New South Wales or Victoria (45% and 31% respectively) but significant numbers are still to be found in other states (Table 2). Suburbs with a high concentration of Chinese migrants in Sydney include Chatswood, Burwood, and Hurstville, and Box Hill in Melbourne. Increasing numbers of PRC and HK migrants have also been found in regional Australia in recent years.12

Population Census 2021 (%)New South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmania  Northern TerritoryAustralian Capital Territory  
Table 2: Geographic Distribution of PRC-Born and HK-Born Australian migrants by Australian States and Territories (2021 census)13

The Reasons

Why do migrants choose Australia over other countries? While places such as the United Kingdom continue to be attractive to many Hong Kong migrants due to their historic ties, Australia has become a preferred destination. Migrants from Hong Kong cite geographical proximity and a time zone similar to HK (unlike Canada or the UK), facilitating easier contact with family and friends. Additional factors that make Australia appealing include its pleasant climate, robust social welfare system, English-speaking environment with a comparatively less stressful education system, abundant career opportunities, and a sense of political safety, especially when compared to other potential destinations like Taiwan.14

Chinese Migration: Challenges and Opportunities

Whether from the PRC, Hong Kong, or elsewhere, most Chinese migrants who have settled in Australia view it as an attractive place to live, work and study. According to the Lowry Institute report, “2023: Being Chinese in Australia,”15 most Chinese-Australians say that Australia is a good place to live, with three-quarters feeling a moderate or strong sense of belonging (even across English, Mandarin, and Cantonese language groups).16

Since 2020, there has been a gradual decrease in Chinese-Australians experiencing physical threats or attacks because of their Chinese heritage or being subjected to offensive names.17 The report also indicates that while there is a difference in opinion on political issues such as Australia’s alliance relationships and the sense of connection to China, Chinese-Australians are not as suspicious of China and President Xi as the broader Australian population.18 Australia will continue to attract Chinese migrants and according to recent trends, the number of Chinese-Australians will continue to grow. This provides many ongoing challenges and opportunities for the church.

The migration of Chinese into Australia provides challenges and opportunities for the church to be intentional in reaching out to those who feel unsettled with the love of Christ in word and deed. It is also an opportunity for the revitalization of churches. In conversation with Cantonese-speaking pastors in Melbourne whose congregations were declining a few years ago, a number said that they received many Christian migrants who are now serving actively in the church, including in outreach. It is also an opportunity for reconciliation as Christians from the PRC and Hong Kong often worship alongside one another and serve in ministry teams together. These are great challenges but also God-given opportunities for us to embrace so we can learn, grow, and unite in serving his purposes in the world.


  1. “Cultural Diversity of Australia,” Australian Bureau of Statistics, September 9, 2022, accessed February 14, 2024,
  2. “Permanent Migration from China,” Department of Home Affairs, accessed February 14, 2024,
  3. “Australia’s Migration Trends 2021–22 Highlights,” Data Services Branch, Department of Home Affairs, p. 15, accessed February 14, 2024,
  4. For a consideration of other factors, see for example, Yuk Wah Chan and Yvette To, “In Search of a Greener Pasture? Post-2019 Migrations from Hong Kong,” American Behavioral Scientist (2023), 1–10,
  5. “Country Profiles List,” Department of Home Affairs, accessed February 14, 2024, The PRC ranked second and India first in 2021–22.
  6. Country Profile—Hong Kong (SAR of the PRC) in “Permanent Migration from Hong Kong (SAR of China),” Department of Home Affairs, accessed February 14, 2024,
  7. “Permanent Migration from Hong Kong (SAR of China),” Department of Home Affairs, accessed February 14, 2024, The PRC and Hong Kong were the top two nationalities of all business innovation and investment visas in 2022–23 with 2,519 and 691 places respectively. “Australian Migration Trends, 2022–23,” Data Services Branch, Department of Home Affairs, p. 8, accessed February 14, 2024,
  8. Edmund Tadros, “Hong Kong Exodus Brings Thousands to Australia,” The Australian Financial Review, August 19, 2022, accessed February 14, 2024,
  9. William Yiu, “Australia’s Migration Pathway for Hongkongers Spurs Sharp Rise in Numbers Studying There, Including Mature Students,” South China Morning Post, September 10, 2023, accessed February 14, 2024,
  10. “Australia’s Migration Trends, 2022–23,” Data Services Branch, Department of Home Affairs, p. 3, accessed February 14, 2024,
  11. 2022–23 figures obtained from the Department of Home Affairs in Australia by request. 2022–23 figures for Mainland China in the table were obtained from “Australia’s Migration Trends, 2022-23,” Data Services Branch, Department of Home Affairs, accessed February 14, 2024,
  12. “Permanent Migration from China,” Department of Home Affairs, accessed February 14, 2024, Also “Permanent Migration from Hong Kong (SAR of China)” Department of Home Affairs, see note 6 above. In addition, “Australia’s Migration Trends 2022–23,” Data Services Branch, Department of Home Affairs, p. 6,
  13. The Australian States and Territories referred to in this table are: NSW (New South Wales), Vic (Victoria), Qld (Queensland), SA (South Australia), WA (Western Australia), Tas (Tasmania), NT (Northern Territory), and ACT (Australian Capital Territory).
  14. Yao-Tai Li and Bin-Jou Liao, “An ‘Unsettling’ Journey? Hong Kong’s Exodus to Taiwan and Australia After the 2019 Protests,” American Behavioral Scientist (2023), 11-13,
  15. Jennifer Hsu, “Being Chinese in Australia,” Lowy Institute Poll, April 2023, accessed February 14, 2024, In this study, when Hsu uses the term “Chinese-Australian” she is referring to “Australian citizens, permanent residents, or long-term visa holders who self-identified as having Chinese ancestry. It should be noted that when asked, not all respondents identified as ‘Chinese-Australian.’ Others preferred to be identified as ‘Chinese,’ ‘Australian,’ or ‘Australian-Chinese’” (p. 5). This report was the result of a national survey of 1,200 adults in Australia who self-identified as of Chinese heritage (p. 39). However, this study also tried to avoid over-representation of “younger, highly acculturated, second-generation respondents” (p. 39). A high proportion chose to compete in a language other than English, with 56.5% selecting simplified Chinese, 8.6% selecting traditional Chinese, and 34.9% completing the survey in English (p. 39).
  16. Hsu, “Being Chinese in Australia,” pp. 4, 10.
  17. Hsu, “Being Chinese in Australia,” p. 12.
  18. Hsu, “Being Chinese in Australia,” p. 4.
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David Ng

David Ng

  Dr. David H. F. Ng has lived and served in Christian leadership in Europe, Africa, Asia, the USA, and Australia. He currently serves as Program Leader of the Master of Missional Leadership at the Melbourne School of Theology, Australia, where he teaches in the English and Chinese Departments. He is …View Full Bio