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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 2:20pm
Beijing White Paper 2014
NewsHong Kong
POLITICS: ANALYSIS

Businesses split on white paper

Beijing's assertion of authority is welcomed by some for adding political certainty; others fear it could undermine investor confidence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 4:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 June, 2014, 9:24am
 

A much-needed note of political certainty or a worrying sign that the city's high degree of autonomy is at an end? Business leaders and analysts are split on the likely effect of Beijing's white paper on Hong Kong on the city's economic outlook.

The white paper, published on Tuesday, saw the central government assert its ultimate authority on Hong Kong affairs and provoked protests from democracy activists and dissent from the Bar Association. In political circles, it has been seen as Beijing putting its foot down over political development as the Occupy Central movement prepares a public vote on models for a democratic election for chief executive in 2017.

For Danny Lau Tat-pong, honorary president of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association, the paper signals an end to the city's high degree of autonomy 17 years after the handover, despite the fact the "one country, two systems" principle is enshrined in the Basic Law.

Lau did not dispute the paper's assertion that Beijing helped pull Hong Kong out of the economic doldrums, but said the city should look for alternatives and not rely only on the mainland economy for growth.

"Observe in coming months the deal flows of major investors in Hong Kong, which will tell you how they react to the white paper's message," Lau said.

In recent months, analysts have pointed to a string of asset sales in Hong Kong and investments overseas by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, as a sign the tycoon is losing confidence in the city's economy. Li has consistently denied he is pulling out.

Another tycoon, Henderson Land boss Lee Shau-kee, yesterday said the white paper was consistent with the city's mini-constitution and would have no impact on investors or his company's plans.

"There is no impact on investor confidence at all," Lee said.

Asked whether the city's competitiveness and business climate had declined since the 1997 handover, Lee said: "I do not see any big differences. Our group still sees earnings growth."

Garment Manufacturers Association chairman Willie Fung Wai-yiu said the white paper would bring certainty and make investment decisions easier as it spelled out Beijing's bottom line on political development.

Economic claims made in the paper - it hails the impact of the 129 million mainland visitors who have flocked to the city since Beijing allowed individual visits in 2003, and points to food and water imports from the mainland - also divided opinion.

Stanley Lau Chin-ho, chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said the white paper was right in saying central government policies had helped Hong Kong thrive.

But Danny Lau said Hong Kong had paid for the food and water, and that the vast number of tourists had created social friction, hence the Hong Kong government was mapping out ways to reduce their numbers.

Stanley Lau said Hong Kong should find ways to improve its competitiveness. "If we politicise everything, I am afraid Hong Kong will one day become an irrelevant Chinese city," he said. "Hong Kong needs development. But whatever the government wants to do, it seems there are politicians who would mobilise people to oppose it."

He pointed to a recent attempt by lawmakers to filibuster the government's budget as an example of the problem of politicisation.

Paul Tang Sai-on, chief economist at the Bank of East Asia, agreed that some of the city's economic challenges had their roots in politics.

Additional reporting by Peggy Sito

 

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sipsip1238
Yes - there are businesses which depends on human traffic flows, and they will suffer during the protest.
Consider this though:
- if protest fails - then what stops your mom and pop store from being taking over by Chinese officials or families with connection because in the future, everything needs an approval from China - in the long run who suffers.
- if protest succeeds - then at least it confirms that there is still a little bit of freedom left, and maybe your cafe, or news stand will be allowed to run for a bit longer without having to pay bribes to officials just to exist.
- if protest gets violent and PRC decides to run a tank through all the people - then it is a sign that all hope is already lost in Hong Kong, and that its an indication that you should leave while you can, because eventually it is going to turn into rubbish tip in 2 decades time. No foreign firms will invest in Hong Kong again, so essentially, Hong Kong will be wiped from the map.
It is painful and annoying for everyone to have to read these type of news constantly, I'd rather know the outcome now. Sadly, China's shimmer has worn off, and now they have a habit of making everyone hate them.
icwu
The 'White Paper' is a rather clumsy way to say that China is not a 'federal' system in its relationship with local entities. This by itself is not a problem as lots of democratic countries are not on a 'federal' sysyem' . The problem is that China's NPC is not perceived to be quite representative, therein, lies the problem. Nonetheless, NPC can still allow or grant that local cultural and core values be preserved and enhanced in certain cases. Hong Kong fits into these cases. Hong Kongers are currently simply asking 'Central' to allow enhancements under the Basic Law of our core values. 'Cessation or independence' has never been in Hong Kong's core values (vs. that of say Taiwan). Central can well allow more flexibility in Hong Kong's 'electoral college' system under the Basic Law.

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