2020 is the Chinese year of the rat and looks like China is being the exactly that. Creating a ruckus pretty much all over the world, what it did yesterday was downright sneaky.
Though there was talk of the new National Security Law soon becoming a reality in Hong Kong, what it did was, well, very China-like. It first passed the law and brought it into effect from today and only later let the public know that it’s a law of the land now in Hong Kong.
While the world is busy dealing with the corona or protecting the borders, China imposed the controversial national security law on Hong Kong. This law gives the Chinese government sweeping powers, which crushes its freedom. The law is overarching both in the definition of the crimes as well as its scope, with penalties as severe as life time imprisonment. With this law now in place, anything can amount to national security threat and anyone, even foreigners and permanent residents could be prosecuted.
It has also been timed to give it an ironical twist – on the eve of Hong Kong’s annual 1st July protest march and the anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese control.
China had mooted this law some 40 days ago and since then, many in Hong Kong, who feared an erosion of their freedoms under Chinese rule, have been looking at leaving the country, migrating to other countries. Infact, migration consultants have never been so busy with residents flooding them with requests of helping them migrate overseas.
But with travel restrictions still in place in many countries due to the corona, one does mot know how many will be able to ultimately move out. Those in the know say that once the pandemic flattens, exodus is expected to swell as lawmakers from the U.K., the U.S. and Taiwan signal they may ease entry requirements for some Hong Kong citizens.
Hong Kong is Asia’s premier financial hub and with China is now firmly in control. Given its clout on the world stage, it is unlikely that businesses will move out. More importantly, a big new inflow of Chinese money into the territory has helped it make its case. To show that China stands strong in Hong Kong, last month, Chinese regulators, publicly pledged to support Hong Kong’s currency if money suddenly fled the territory.
Businesses expect Hong Kong to remain a profitable place for commerce and most confer that they are there to do business and not politics; they feel, like the FIIs in our country, as long as they make money, nothing else matters.
Many say that they already knew Hong Kong was China and obviously ‘$’ is more important than democracy and freedom, two traits that are unlikely to ever be allowed in China.
Having said all this, the free thinking liberals, for whom democracy and freedom does matter, emigration is a reality and we could see a lot of brain drain on that front. Also, given the animosity of the world towards China currently, many companies might feel that its no longer worth the risk. China has become a political risk which many businesses might not want to take. In the wake of the pandemic and tariff war, it is likely that some companies might move out and Singapore might get stronger as the hug for SE Asia; but becoming the financial hub that Hong Kong is might take a while.
Well, all we can say is that Taiwan had better watch this integration process with a hawk’s eye as they seem to be headed in the same direction.