Hong Kong residents are increasingly looking to New Zealand as a refuge to escape escalating protests and uncertainty.

Protests have sparked fears of a heavy response from China, serious economic fallout the financial powerhouse and yesterday closed the city's airport. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, including between Hong Kong and Auckland.

Immigration consultants from Malcolm Pacific say they haven't seen this level of inquiry since 1997 when there was fear for the territory's future when Britain handed it back to China.

""They're not in panic mode yet but people are saying it's not a one day wonder and it's time

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