Companies have rented backup offices to prepare for potential disruption by the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, business insiders say.
This emerged yesterday as the outgoing chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce said discussion of the movement had already affected Hong Kong's reputation and his successor said his own company had made contingency plans.
"I do not want people to look at Hong Kong as they look at Thailand or Taiwan," Chow Chung-kong said as he stepped down as chairman, referring to street protests that have rocked both places.
Hongkong Land chief executive Pang Yiu-kai, who took over from Chow, said the property giant had made contingency plans in case the movement went ahead with its plan to blockade Central in a pro-democracy demonstration.
Pang did not elaborate. But a source close to the chamber said some companies had already rented offices off Hong Kong Island, including in Kwun Tong.
"Many companies have conducted risk assessment, as part of corporate governance practices, and decided to secure a second office - with the necessary technological set-up - just in case Occupy Central obstructs access to their main offices," the source said. They added that business consultancies, legal and accounting firms had "benefited from the movement" as companies sought advice.
One owner of offices in Causeway Bay said some financial companies were seeking space there and in Mong Kok to prepare for any disruption.
There was disruption of a different kind yesterday as dozens of unionists protested outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the chamber's annual general meeting was held, with some storming inside.
They were complaining about the chamber's role in opposing new collective bargaining laws in Guangdong, where many member companies have operations.
Chow, chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, also warned yesterday that cutting the number of mainland visitors to the city could harm the economy and employment.
He said the government should leave the issue to the market, noting that the rate of increase of mainland tourists to Hong Kong had already slowed.