Asia's world city?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 August, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 2003, 12:00am

It is often said that Hong Kong aspires to be 'Asia's world city', potentially the London or New York of Asia, and certainly it is said that the goal is not to be just another city of many in China.

However, in order to potentially reach the aspiration Hong Kong policies need to be in agreement and run in tandem with the goal.

In recent weeks, immigration policy has been revised in such a way as to make it less likely that Hong Kong will achieve its aspiration.

Firstly, it was announced that the spouse or partner of foreigners with specific skill sets who are allowed to enter and work in Hong Kong will no longer automatically also be allowed to work.

And second, we learn that skilled foreigners who have been legally working in Hong Kong for more than seven years will in future not have the ability to claim permanent residency by right but will be subject to a further consideration and review before any decision to grant permanent residence.

Alas it is of little use to claim that these new policies will be applied leniently. What people see is what is written in black and white.

Talented individuals who may be considering coming to, or indeed remaining in Hong Kong, are receiving the message that Hong Kong is becoming less welcoming of skilled foreigners and in fact more like just another city of many in China.

There is no doubt that Hong Kong has the right to decide who should live and remain in Hong Kong. This is not in dispute. But the policies need to reflect Hong Kong's future vision and aspiration.

In a world where talented individuals have numerous choices about where to settle and apply their skills, and where many cities and countries are trying to attract talented individuals, Hong Kong is becoming a less attractive location for these people.

The unmistakable impression being given out is that Hong Kong is becoming less welcoming of foreigners and retreating from its 'Asia's world city' aspiration. And in this situation, impressions count for a lot.