Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has warned that the Occupy Central campaign planned by democracy activists could hit the economy and weaken the city's competitiveness.
Tsang, who was briefing legislators on the economic outlook at a meeting of the Legislative Council financial affairs panel yesterday, also said the planned protest could dampen investors' confidence in the territory.
It was the first time the financial chief had commented so explicitly on the so-called civil disobedience campaign that plans to mobilise at least 10,000 protesters to block the streets of Central next year, unless the government comes up with what organisers consider a true democratic system for the 2017 chief executive election.
"We are … concerned that it will shake the investors' confidence in Hong Kong," Tsang said. "And in the long term, it will also affect competitiveness."
Tsang's remarks came as pro-establishment legislators urged the government to be prepared to cope with the possible impact of the campaign on the economy.
"The last thing we want to see is that Hong Kong's situation becomes like that in Thailand," Wong Kwok-hing of the Federation of Trade Unions said, referring to the anti-government protests that have brought chaos to parts of Bangkok.
Chan Kam-lam, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said: "Occupy Central could degenerate into occupying government headquarters. It would be a big mistake if our financial officials are not doing any assessment of the possible impacts of the campaign."
Tsang said: "If the Occupy Central plan goes ahead, it will certainly affect the economy."
Tsang also reiterated that the government had no plans to drop or tone down the anti-property-speculation measures, warning there was a still a high risk of the property bubble bursting.
He said purchases by non-locals and overseas companies in the first 10 months of this year averaged only 89 a month, or 1.9 per cent of total transactions, compared with a monthly average of 365 or 4.5 per cent in January to October last year.
But he said flat prices were still 134 per cent that of the 2008 level.