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Thursday, April 08, 2021, 00:42
Hong Kong's economic future bright and secure
By Ho Lok Sang
Thursday, April 08, 2021, 00:42 By Ho Lok Sang

I am positive that Hong Kong’s economic future is as bright as ever, notwithstanding the United States’ sanctions and the deepest and longest recession that has grappled the economy. While Mandatory Provident Fund Authority figures indicate that there was a noticeable increase in the amount of funds taken out due to some residents’ permanent departure from the city, and there is a rise in the number of student withdrawals in many schools, suggesting many are leaving the city, buoyant housing prices suggest that many others share my optimism. Strong exports in the first two months with year-on-year growth at 44 percent and 30.4 percent also augur well for the economy.

Following the promulgation of the National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong last summer, then-US president Donald Trump signed an executive order “to end Hong Kong’s special status” so Hong Kong would be treated the same as the Chinese mainland. The election of Joe Biden as the 46th US President has not made any difference. All signs indicate that he will follow the same tough line as Trump toward the Hong Kong SAR and China in general. The only difference is that he is more inclined to work with the US’ allies in containing China’s rise. 

My optimism about the future of Hong Kong is based on the attraction of the city to talents. Hong Kong is always open to talents from across the globe. Being a part of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and given the fact that Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou today ranks second in the Global Innovation Index, just after Tokyo-Yokohama, and ahead of Seoul, Beijing, and San Jose-San Francisco, Hong Kong will benefit from the dynamics of the innovation powerhouse of the region. Hong Kong always ranks among the world’s top five global financial centers (fourth in the latest ranking). Apart from being one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, it is also unique in having beautiful country parks and a charming coastline. Its low tax rates and great infrastructure add to the city’s competitiveness. The NSL actually helps Hong Kong regain its status as one of the world’s safest cities. 

Being a part of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and given the fact that Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou today ranks second in the Global Innovation Index, just after Tokyo-Yokohama, and ahead of Seoul, Beijing, and San Jose-San Francisco, Hong Kong will benefit from the dynamics of the innovation powerhouse of the region

Although a number of Hong Kong people are leaving the city in the worry that the NSL might compromise their freedoms, they will in time realize that nothing that really matters has changed. Hong Kong had seen a number of episodes of surges in emigration before. But in the end, many emigrants came back, and Hong Kong continued to thrive. In particular, the NSL should not worry anyone who loves peace and order, because one who loves peace and order would not do anything that jeopardizes the safety of the city, and would not therefore be charged under the NSL. Actually after the enactment of the NSL on June 30 last year, peace and order returned to Hong Kong, so peace-loving people can have peace: no more riots, no more impromptu traffic blockages, no more disruptions to businesses and shopping malls. The freedom to walk safely and to run businesses without disruption is now assured. Only the freedom to undermine Hong Kong’s peace and prosperity is no longer allowed. 

Some may point to the reduction in the percentage of Legislative Council seats that are directly elected as a sign of “retrogression in democracy”, and see this as a deviation from the promise in the Basic Law for gradual and orderly progression toward the election of all members of the LegCo by universal suffrage. However, the sincerity of Beijing is amply demonstrated in the progressive increase in the number of directly elected seats over the years, from 20 in 1995 to 24 in 2000 and then to 35 in 2012. The reduction to only 20 seats will disappoint some people, but we must not forget that progression for more directly elected seats must be “in the light of the actual situation in the HKSAR”, according to the Basic Law. The situation in the HKSAR had deteriorated to an extent that going about one’s normal life was no longer possible. At one time, a schedule of “activities” was announced every week, and hardly a district was spared. Even the LegCo chamber itself was ransacked. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Mr Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said that the ratio may increase in the future if circumstances permit. 

Officials stressed that the electoral reform is not intended to exclude anyone or any party from the LegCo. The bottom line is that anyone taking public office in the Hong Kong SAR must love the country and the Hong Kong SAR. If one truly loves the Hong Kong SAR and the country, one would never do things that hurt Hong Kong’s or China’s interests. If one loves the country and has an open mind, how can one be blind to the success of China’s political system in serving the people and try to replace it with the Western model of democracy, which is not doing any better? If one loves Hong Kong, how can one ask foreign powers to sanction Hong Kong and its officials? People from the opposition camp with ideas different from the official line on how to improve Hong Kong’s living environment, healthcare system, education system, social safety net and business climate will never be barred from seeking election in the LegCo. Let us start cultivating mutual trust with Beijing, so the gradual progression to universal suffrage under the Basic Law can be resumed.

The author is a senior research fellow at Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Eco-nomic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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