What is left of Hong Kong's competitive advantage?

October 28, 2019 17:16
The rule of law is the most important pillar that supports Hong Kong’s status as an international financial hub. Photo: HKEJ

Thanks to our persevering “Lion Rock spirit”, Hong Kong has been able to achieve economic miracles over the years and has firmly established itself as an international financial hub and a robust free economy, despite having virtually no natural resources.

But the unrest roiling the territory over the past four months has eroded much of our advantages.

If we allow violence to continue unabated, it will not only stain our hard-earned reputation as a global financial center but may eventually hand over our international status to neighboring competitors.

Hong Kong’s international success is built on our core values – the rule of law, freedom, professionalism, and impartial and clean government – along with the “opportunities of the century” presented by globalization and China's economic reform and opening up.

Over the years, Hong Kong has witnessed a lot of turbulence and external challenges, such as the 1998 Asian financial crisis, the 2008 global tsunami, the 2003 SARS epidemic and the severe issue of widespread negative equity, but we managed to ride out all these crises calmly and successfully.

As we can see, Hong Kong can always learn the lessons from previous crises, then improve itself and achieve even greater successes afterwards.

This time, however, things are different as the months of turmoil have inflicted damage on our society that is almost irreversible. The situation has become so worrisome that one just couldn’t help but ask: What else can Hong Kong depend on in the days ahead?

The rule of law is the most important pillar that supports Hong Kong’s status as an international financial hub, and on which our social stability and prosperity are founded.

“The rule of law” doesn’t only refer to ruling our society with the law, but rather, the well-established system under which all stakeholders in society always seek to resolve their disputes through the existing legal or mediation mechanism, and try to convince one another by reason rather than force.

On the other hand, while I believe no one would disapprove of the passion of the people of Hong Kong for seeking freedom and democracy, it is also my firm belief that the spirit of democracy is for people to be inclusive and be absolutely respectful to others’ rights and freedom of expressing their own opinions.

Unfortunately, what we are witnessing now is that some people are treated with violence if they express a different political opinion.

Worse still, it appears some people with their own secret agenda are playing upon the passion of our young people and deliberately spreading twisted values as well as communist-phobic sentiments to incite these young people to commit violence.

Even more heartbreaking is that some local professionals and members of organizations have been making biased remarks as well as spreading rumors in order to serve their own purposes at the expense of their moral and ethical decency.

As violence continues to escalate, we must ask ourselves: What advantages are still left for Hong Kong to depend on? Also, amid the intense challenges posed by our competitors, does Hong Kong still have time to heal its wounds if the unrest continues? Do we still have any bargaining power in the face of our competitors?

I believe these are the fundamental issues the entire society must ponder on.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Dr Allen Shi Lop-tak is the first vice president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong.