A leading local business chamber has joined four of its international counterparts in Hong Kong to condemn the Occupy Central movement in a statement published in several newspapers yesterday.
But a number of influential international chambers are conspicuously absent as signatories to the joint statement, which says the pro-democracy civil disobedience campaign could cripple commerce in the city's central business district.
It is the first time the city's international chambers have released a statement opposing the movement, which plans to rally protesters to blockade Central district if the government does not come up with a satisfactory plan for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive election.
The statement - issued by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macau, the Hong Kong Bahrain Business Association and the Indian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong - was published as ads in the South China Morning Post and two Chinese-language newspapers, the Hong Kong Economic Journal and Hong Kong Economic Times, yesterday.
"Generally, the business community is apolitical, preferring to channel its energy into the economic well-being of Hong Kong," the statement said. "It is regrettable to note that the organisers of Occupy Central appear to have given insufficient thought to the potential consequences their demonstration could have for the city's economy, its businesses, its community and people, and even those visiting Hong Kong from overseas.
"Newspaper vendors, restaurants, fast-food shops and many other small businesses in Central all depend on a daily flow of customers for their livelihoods. Damage to Hong Kong's reputation could have long-lasting consequences."
The business leaders urged Occupy Central organisers to call off their planned action and to argue their case through "channels available" instead.
The statement comes two weeks after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said financial and professional services firms were planning to sue the Occupy Central organisers for any loss or damage they suffer from the planned blockade. Some of the chambers had been considering issuing the statement against the movement since April.
But key international chambers such as the British, American and Australian chambers of commerce in Hong Kong were missing from the list of signatories. There are some 20 global business chambers in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce also did not sign.
Dr Chan Kin-man, an organiser of the movement, said the chambers should recognise that despite the short-term inconveniences that the planned protest could bring, it would help improve the city's governance and create a level playing field for the international business community in the long run.
A government source said it was strange the British and American chambers did not sign the statement as many British and American companies have assets in Central.
The British chamber said it would not comment on whether it was invited to sign.
According to investment bank UBS, Hongkong Land, whose offices are concentrated in the central business district, would be hardest hit should the planned action go ahead. "Hongkong Land and Wharf Holdings will suffer the most should the Occupy Central movement carry out its threat to block streets in the heart of the city," UBS said.
Last October, eight local business groups issued a statement condemning the protest plan, saying it could harm "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong.