Until very recently the motivation of skilled migration has been largely explained from neo-classically oriented world views coupled with an institutional focus that pays major attention to how skilled migration is driven by (economic) globalisation and sustained by inter- or intra-company economic and social connections. Little is said about how dream and aspiration have shaped migration plans and choices of destination. Although the recent development of academic literature witnesses a shift away from a narrow focus on economic logics to the human face of transnational skills, the issue of desire only accidentally emerges in most discussions. Based on in-depth interviews with mainland Chinese professional migrants in post-colonial Hong Kong, this paper foregrounds the notion of ‘desire’ as a conceptual vehicle to interweave economic, political and cultural dimensions within the same frame to understand the intentions and dynamics of skilled migration, and to link decision-making at the individual level to a broader geo-politics and geo-economies in which migration takes place. In-depth interviews reveal that apart from economic and career considerations, decisions to migrate were marked by aspiration and fantasy associated with cultural imagination of post-colonial Hong Kong embedded in discourses of place, border and nationhood that go beyond the specific issue of China–Hong Kong migration.