The disqualification of four Hong Kong legislators and the suspension of Ant’s IPO point to a discomforting conclusion: the city’s role as a business hub with an independent legal system is now vulnerable to diktats from Beijing.
China led the world into the pandemic and its economy is leading the way out. This should be a time for Beijing to effortlessly extend its soft power. So why hasn’t China’s push to win friends and influence people paid dividends?
Many executives seem to be writing off 2021, suggesting little faith in prospects for a V-shaped recovery. Workers and firms not in the digital space face an even harder road, complicated by Covid-19, Sino-US tensions and the growing impact of climate change.
If Hong Kong is to be more than China’s offshore financial market, it must retain its free press, independent judiciary and honest civil service.
The relatively low infection and death rates in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are a testament to investment in public health infrastructure, transparency and societies that prioritise group interests.
Lessons that should have been learned after the harrowing Sars experience were not: diseases like Covid-19 will happen from time to time in a hyper-connected world, and the trust and transparency that will fortify a society’s response to such a crisis is lacking.
Like the wildfires in Australia, the political flames in Hong Kong burn hotter with each outbreak. Given that the government shows no intention of heeding the public’s voices, corporate Hong Kong must get to work on community engagement.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s strategy of waiting out the protests is not working. Meanwhile, businesses are caught between protesters and pressure from China. Protesters must find creative ways out of the impasse that will not destroy Hong Kong.
By narrowing the boundaries of commentary, China is gradually alienating outsiders who might see opportunities there. In attacking the NBA, which does not need China and would be difficult to replace, Beijing may have finally gone too far.
Xi Jinping’s approach highlights how politics has always been in command in China. But nationalistic leaders and web users would do well to remember the losses suffered through extreme political correctness in the Mao era.
A more mainland-dominated Hong Kong would threaten the city’s robust regulatory regime, high corporate governance standards and freedom of the press and information, putting its status as Asia’s financial centre at risk.
Hong Kong was branded a ‘dying’ city in the darkest days of the Korean war but rose to the occasion. With a new standoff brewing, it must now bolster the institutions that make it unique.
In her new book, Barbara Finamore is optimistic about the wider effects of China’s energy and environmental transformation, but downplays the costs of the Belt and Road Initiative and the role of ordinary citizens.
Hong Kong needs to cultivate its position as a protected zone between different worlds. Without it, the city is no use to China or the world