Even before the protest movement began, the U.S. was losing luster. In a December survey by Chinese University of Hong Kong, one-third of the city's citizens said they'd consider leaving. Among them, the most popular destinations were Canada and Australia, with at least 18% of respondents each, followed by Taiwan, at 11%, and Singapore at 5%. The U.S. was the top choice for 2.9%.

Australia is a favorite for clients of John Hu, founder and principal consultant at John Hu Migration Consulting in Hong Kong. Advantages include a small time difference with China and mild climate. Canada is also popular, Hu said, especially for clients who want to follow family members who previously emigrated there.

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