Hong Kong was overtaken by Singapore as the world’s freest economy, according to the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom compiled by the Heritage Foundation — a position Hong Kong had held from 1995 to 2019. But, due to the upheaval and social unrest that has continued since June last year, we have lost it. It is not so much the ranking we care about, but rather the long-term stability and prosperity under the “one country, two systems” principle that is of paramount importance to Hong Kong’s development.
The city is in an enviable position of having the strong and unreserved backing of our motherland and such an open economy that it attracts capital and talents worldwide. Sadly, the confidence of Hong Kong’s business community in sustainable development has suffered a devastating blow from the endless social unrest. Many small and medium-sized enterprises built with blood and tears over the years have shut down and will not reopen. Currently, more and more SMEs are hopeful the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be under effective control. But, they’re still worried that the unrest may never end. Hong Kong businesses are accustomed to cyclical economic spasms and have managed to survive them well, but it’s another story when it comes to social unrest.
The city is in an enviable position of having the strong and unreserved backing of our motherland and such an open economy that it attracts capital and talents worldwide. Sadly, the confidence of Hong Kong’s business community in sustainable development has suffered a devastating blow from the endless social unrest
From talking with many SME owners in the retail and other sectors of the service industry, I found they would rather close down despite significant rent cuts because they could not stay open out of constant fear for the safety of customers, as well as their own. Most business owners are not interested in politics. All they want is to make a decent living for themselves, their families and their staff. They argued that when there is law and order, their customers feel safe to go out to socialize, enjoy a meal and shop for things they like and enjoy. Their livelihoods are dependent on SMEs regardless of their political inclinations. Without long-term income security, people cannot have true freedom of any kind in today’s world. The foundation of freedom and happiness is safety and order. The same is true for a person or a country: No one can prosper when their safety is not ensured. I still remember frightening stories about Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation in World War II when people lived in fear and struggled to live a normal life — let alone run a prosperous business.
It’s therefore a blessing for Hong Kong that the National People’s Congress is deliberating a draft decision on a national law concerning matters of national security in the HKSAR. Hong Kong has not enacted a national security law according to Article 23 of the Basic Law because of opposition controlled by certain foreign governments, which have passed or tightened their own national security laws. Take Macao, which is also a special administrative region of China, for example. It has passed the national security law according to Article 23 of its Basic Law, which is why its residents enjoy the benefit of “one country, two systems” free from foreign interference and the resulting social unrest which Hong Kong has been subjected to for years. A national security law is like any code of conduct in Hong Kong: As long as you abide by it, you have no need to fear any punishment.
Other benefits from the national law include the quick revival of tourism-related consumer services once the Individual Visit Scheme resumes after the travel restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 are lifted. Hong Kong’s status as a center of international finance, trade and shipping will be strengthened, allowing all industries to thrive and create more jobs for expatriates, as well as local residents. The emerging threat of terrorist attacks will be effectively nipped in the bud once foreign interference is stopped. Without such meddling, the Asia-Pacific region will enjoy some peace and stability. It will also contribute to China’s efforts to achieve a shared future for mankind, as envisioned and initiated by President Xi Jinping.
The author is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS