Frame it. That's the best advice you can probably get on The Economist magazine's latest front cover proclaiming that Hong Kong has a hazy future. And the reason your correspondent offers this advice is that, much to his regret, he forgot to do it when Fortune magazine presented a similar front cover a few years ago with a big black border and the bold words 'The Death of Hong Kong'. The Hang Seng Index almost doubled over the subsequent two years but this classic buy signal had by then long been consigned to the rubbish tip rather than its proper place in a big frame on the wall above the desk. These rare investment signals ought to be treasured. Journalists may not like it but a golden rule of investment theory applies very closely here. This one says, listen, folks, it's in the price if it's in the press. It should not be surprising really. If grim news is so well publicised that it is featured not only in the biggest headlines but on the front cover of a foreign magazine then it is known well enough for markets to have adjusted to it long ago and for an economy to be well on its way to adapting to it. There was not much new in The Economist's reasons for proclaiming that Hong Kong is losing its way. They included the usual warnings that Hong Kong risks losing its standing as a financial hub to Singapore and Shanghai and that personal freedoms are at risk. The examples cited for this were mostly the usual ones of the right of abode controversy, favouritism in high places, a drift away from laissez-faire policies and the fact that the Government does not have a more democratic mandate. There is substance to these criticisms, of course, but one reason they are so prominent is that the freedom to make them is so prominent in our city. Your correspondent has been highly critical of several Government initiatives over the past year and the worst that has happened to him for it has been publication of a number of aggrieved letters to the editor from the departments or people he has criticised. That worst would have been a good deal worse in some Asian cities. A one-way trip to the airport after a night in the cells would have been more like it. And that should be answer enough to criticisms that Hong Kong is losing its freedoms. Yes, there are reasons to worry here and there but the substance of the freedoms that have made us what we are remain intact. As to the threats from Singapore or Shanghai, let's remember that we have had far more bark than bite here. Their best achievements recently have largely been in the field of public relations. It is certainly true that the most recent statistics on economic growth show that Singapore seems to have recovered more rapidly than Hong Kong from the Asian financial crisis. But you could equally take the view that the slower pace of Hong Kong's recovery demonstrates that the lessons of the crisis have been more thoroughly absorbed here and that the resultant reforms and adjustments have gone deeper. It's a long race and it's first place at the finishing line that counts. Being first out of the blocks and running faster than anyone else in the first 100 metres is not usually the best prescription for winning a marathon. As to Shanghai's ambitions, it has indeed created the office infrastructure for a big financial centre and if those offices were filled it might be a strong contender. But they are more than half empty and that is a prescription for financial trouble, not financial success. The big difficulty with looking into the future anywhere is that it is always hazy. Hong Kong's success, however, has been built on principles that make it easier for the future to look after itself without having to depend on legions of planners and worriers. Frame that cover. It looks like another of those precious contrary buy signals.