It was the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China that convinced Oscar Wong to quit Hong Kong before it returned to Chinese hands.
Scenes of the bloodshed horrified Hong Kong residents and heightened fears for their future. To Mr. Wong, it fueled expectations that "human rights in Hong Kong would gradually diminish" after Chinese control resumes in 1997.
Tiananmen, therefore, became a turning point. "The thought of emigrating" from Hong Kong "had always been there; but after 1989, everyone in Hong Kong was talking about leaving; and after thinking about it, I decided it was not a bad idea," said Mr. Wong, who now lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.
A native of Hong Kong, the 40-year-old Mr. Wong is a senior vice president of G.T. Global Canada, and he remains a director of G.T. Management Asia in Hong Kong. For the past 18 years, he has worked for the G.T. Group.
To be sure, Mr. Wong doesn't foresee any bloodbaths in Hong Kong after 1997; nor would he have expected any personal reprisals after 1997 had he stayed in Hong Kong - even though his parents had fled from Guangzhou in 1950 to avoid living under communism.
Instead, he believes the opportunities for freedom and individual expression will ebb in Hong Kong after 1997. The territory's social/economic fabric also should deteriorate, he said.
"Hong Kong now is the only place in Asia where individual freedoms are respected," Mr. Wong said. In China and the rest of Asia, an elitist social model has evolved, where the well-connected sons and daughters of rulers grab political and economic opportunities for themselves. "The well-connected in China form the upper echelon, and the rest just get by. That is the way I imagine Hong Kong will go," said Mr. Wong.
Mr. Wong didn't want his sons growing up in that sort of social/economic strata - especially because that hadn't been his fate. He felt he owed his sons no less than what his parents had done.
But leaving Hong Kong wasn't a snap. Although they had decided to emigrate in late 1990, it wasn't obvious where they should go; they had no relatives outside of Hong Kong and China. Eventually, they decided on Canada. Their rationale: Canada had "slightly more of an immigrant population than Australia and New Zealand, while the U.S. was more difficult to get into," explained Mr. Wong. Because of the long waiting list to emigrate to Canada, the Wongs waited until January 1994 for their entry visa.
Now in Canada, events overall seem more predictable than in mercurial Asia, and for the Wongs, family life is richer. Mr. Wong says he spends more time with his family than he could in Hong Kong, where the business day averages about 12 hours.
As for Canada, Mr. Wong calls it a "developed economy where you don't get too many surprises. You know what you're getting into - and I'm certainly not complaining."
However, the G.T. official - whose past accomplishments include starting G.T.'s PRC fund, G.T.'s Taiwan fund and G.T.'s Newly Industrialized Countries fund - still uses his knowledge of Asia. As a G.T. senior vice president, research and investment management, he is a bridge between the firm's investors and its investment managers. He doesn't manage portfolios directly. "But I do influence asset allocation and even stock selection because of my past and current experiences," said Mr. Wong.