From the Viewsroom

Hong Kong, no longer as we knew it

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on July 05, 2020 Published on July 06, 2020

The new law may end the hub’s appeal among people, businesses

A 24-year-old man who rode a motorcycle through Hong Kong’s streets last week, waving a banner proclaiming “Liberate Hong Kong”, has become the first person to be charged under China’s tough new security law. Tong Ying-Kit, produced in a courtoom on Friday, faces accusations of inciting terrorism and secession, and having crashed his motorcycle into police officers. Tong was the first person to appear in court under the law that makes crimes like secession, subversion, terrorist activities and foreign collusion punishable by life imprisonment. But he was one of 370 arrested. Police warn even being in possession of a pro-democacy banner could result in charges. The result has been many activists furiously deleting posts and messages. The democracy movement is disbanding, at least publicly. “This is the end of British Hong Kong and the institutions they left,” says one long-term resident.

The key question remaining is whether the city will continue to have an independent judiciary, or whether the system will become like the rest of China’s. This issue will have consequences for Hong Kong citizens and for international companies.

Hong Kong has enjoyed many advantages that have made it a thriving city-port. It’s a terrific trade and logistics hub and companies shipping to the US can clear customs before shipment (a facility that may not survive long). Financial services thrive because the Hong Kong dollar’s convertible on the capital account. Also, many Chinese and other companies boosted their reputation by going on the HK stock exchange, which follows global listing norms. Firms are now worried, though, that the new law could threaten free information flows. A recent American Chamber of Commerce poll showed 30 per cent of respondents considering shifting activities. The biggest winner could be Singapore. Will companies stay? On one hand, businesses want to retain access to China’s market. On the other, operating under an authoritarian regime may prove unworkable. In the end, it will be about the rule of law — or lack of it.

The writer is Editorial Consultant with BusinessLine

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on July 06, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor