Coming off a high-profile visit to Beijing, a group of Hong Kong tycoons are renewing a warning that a planned sit-in protest by Occupy Central could hurt the economy.
We’ve seen this movie before. There are two ways of looking at it:
1) It’s the wrong movie. We don’t know if the sit-in will produce the kind of public impact its organizers hope, let alone the kind of disruption that can upend Hong Kong’s economic infrastructure.
2) It’s the wrong plot. Hong Kong’s economic challenges are less about itself than about China. If the economy were to suffer from any disruption, it’s likely going to be from over-reliance on the mainland economy.
The problem is that some of our politicians and the business elite have already given away the ending. In their minds, Occupy Central and the student movement are to blame if the economy tanks.
Let’s forget for a while their dire prognostications until we’ve seen the evidence.
Sure, political and economic issues cannot easily be divorced from each other but we can avoid mixing them up in the present situation.
The democracy activists have nothing to do with an influx of mainlanders that has driven up property prices. Neither can they claim credit for revving up tourist-related revenue.
They have no part in the growing gap between rich and poor; they’re not the cause of inflation.
There are many things about the local economy they’re not responsible for, if only we had a whole day to list them down.
Leung Chi-kin, chairman of the Hong Kong Real Estate Developers Association, thinks the protest movement will hit home values.
If he means it will cause property prices to fall, he is ignoring the fact that the government has been trying to rein in the market.
If he means the protest movement will run up home prices, he probably hasn’t heard that interest rates in the United States are going up next year which could trigger adjustments across the board, not least in Hong Kong.
What is being overlooked is that Hong Kong cannot rely on China forever for its economic well-being.
With the mainland economy slowing and credit unpredictably flowing and ebbing, Hong Kong has to get more engaged with the global economy. Its strengths lie in being a world-class financial and services hub.
In the end, full economic integration with the mainland will happen but it will be something for discussion in the future.
Meanwhile, politics, not the economy, should be the main focus of any debate about Occupy Central and the student movement.
Hong Kong’s democratic development could stall — if not end — in 2017 when a new election framework is implemented that will deny Hong Kong people any chance to elect their own leader not pre-selected by Beijing.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, not the most popular of Hong Kong’s post-colonial leaders, has been accused of promoting the interests of the central government.
Instead of building bridges in Hong Kong’s fractured politics, he seems pre-occupied with building guangxi with mainland authorities.
Occupy Central, the student movement and pro-democracy groups are the ones doing the heavy lifting in trying to keep Hong Kong on track for the remaining 33 years before it fully reverts to Chinese rule.
Now that’s a good plot for a compelling movie.
– Contact us at [email protected]