Back to the futures for Hong Kong traders

September 06, 2019 12:45
People take an escalator next to posters and sticker notes supporting the anti-government protest movement near the Central Government Offices in Admiralty on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

"Hong Kong has no future and no option."

This was the running joke among brokers on Thursday after the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (00388.HK) suspended derivatives trading for the first time in its history.

Not a good thing to happen in an international financial center. But it was only for less than a day. Futures and options trading resumed this morning after it was suspended from 2 p.m. on Thursday.

The suspension was “due to prolonged connectivity issues on the Hong Kong Futures Automatic Trading System”, HKEx said.

It happened just as investors were taking profits following Wednesday's rally.

Rest assured, though, it had nothing to do with hackers or the civil unrest, which is continuing even after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced the formal withdrawal of the much-reviled extradition bill.

On Friday, however, the bourse operator revealed that its website had been hacked on Thursday. It said it has reported the distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) to the police.

On Wednesday afternoon, when news got around that Lam was about to make the announcement, the Hang Seng Index surged almost a thousand points to close 3.9 percent higher.

But many critics described her concession as "too little, too late".

Had she scrapped the bill right away, instead of just suspending it or saying it's "dead", after a million Hongkongers took to the streets on June 9th, then perhaps she would have spared all of us this terrible summer that saw more than 1,183 arrests and over 2,000 tear gas fired at protesters.

Then we wouldn't have had this economic downturn that saw a 45 percent drop in tourist arrivals, a 30 percent drop in retail and dining revenues, and a nearly 10 percent correction in the Hang Seng Index last month.

"Too little, too late" because aside from the many horrendous things that have happened since this saga began, she only acceded to one of the protesters' five demands. It simply wasn't enough, the way they see it.

Netizens compared Lam's action to a credit card payment: she only paid 20 percent or lower than the minimum payment.

She now owes a lot more than the "principal" in view of the "unforgivable havoc" that her legislative initiative has done.

Violence begets violence, but how do we stop it? How do we satisfy the call for justice for the victims of what critics regard as "police brutality" and "abuse of power"?

Would tapping her former campaign manager Helen Yu Lai Ching-ping, now 78 years old, and the unpopular barrister Paul Lam Ting-kwok boost the credibility of the Independent Police Complaints Council, which will investigate the entire mess?

The protesters are clearly far from satisfied, which is why they have vowed to occupy the airport again this weekend.

Let's just hope we have seen the worst. And while the situation won't return to normal immediately, let's hope things will get better this September.

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EJ Insight writer