Actions speak louder than words. But in face of a malicious smear campaign against China and interference in Hong Kong affairs by US-led external forces, it is never too late to set the record straight. Mired in the protracted US-China tension, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is at grave risk of being used as a geopolitical pawn by the West in curbing the rise of China.
The recent “Report on Hong Kong’s business environment – a place with unique advantages and unlimited opportunities” (the “Report”) published by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, coming after the publication of a fact sheet by the Foreign Ministry detailing 102 instances of US interference, is a forceful response, piercing the veil of prejudice and misinformation of Hong Kong purposely disseminated by the West.
In rebuffing the foreign doomsayers’ grim predictions following the enactment of the National Security Law for Hong Kong last year, the 68-page report, which consists of three chapters evidenced with the latest economic statistics and financial figures of Hong Kong in the past two years, quantitatively chronicles how Hong Kong underwent a baptism of fire from the “black revolution” in the second-half 2019 to the restoration of peace and social order only months after the implementation of the National Security Law.
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As the words of Chinese philosopher Xun Zi go, “a rolling ball stops when it reaches a crater; rumors stop when they reach the wise”. Amid the conspiracies and trumped-up charges against Hong Kong, most Hong Kong people are wise enough to let facts speak for themselves.
The recent “Report on Hong Kong’s business environment – a place with unique advantages and unlimited opportunities” (the “Report”) published by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, coming after the publication of a fact sheet by the Foreign Ministry detailing 102 instances of US interference, is a forceful response, piercing the veil of prejudice and misinformation of Hong Kong purposely disseminated by the West
Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, frivolously called the violent demonstrations in late 2019 “a beautiful sight to behold”.
But the reality was, according to the Report, Hong Kong’s economy worsened abruptly back then, resulting in sharp contractions of 3.2 percent and 3.6 percent in the third and fourth quarters respectively.
The labor market was under vast pressure as working class livelihoods were adversely affected. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 2.8 percent in the second quarter of 2019 to 3.3 percent in the fourth.
It demonstrates how the large-scale violence and damage inflicted by the anti-China rioters took a heavy toll on the economy, society, and people’s livelihoods. If the protest violence took root in the US like what happened with the US Capitol Hill siege with a woman fatally shot by the police immediately after the US presidential election in 2020, would Pelosi still dare to publicly glorify the rioters?
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Following the enactment of the National Security Law, which criminalizes acts of secession, subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with external forces to endanger national security, the national security loophole in Hong Kong was effectively plugged.
Hong Kong returned from chaos to governance, and from governance to prosperity. According to the Report, there was a decrease of 1,474 crime cases, or 4.6 percent, in the first half of 2021 when compared with the same period in 2020.
In addition, compared to the crimes recorded at the peak of the “black revolution”, the offenses against public order and arson cases declined by over 90 percent, from 942 to 28, and nearly 80 percent, from 772 to 159, respectively.
It was no surprise that the SAR government recently removed the giant water-filled barricades at the government headquarters, a move signaling the city’s full return to safe normalcy.
Allaying global investors’ concern, Hong Kong’s financial market and business environment have remained stable, if not more favorable with improved investment sentiment compared to the time before the National Security Law came into effect.
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According to the Report, funds raised through IPOs in Hong Kong exceeded HK$500 billion ($64.27 billion) in the first half, a surge of more than 50 percent compared to the previous year. The average daily turnover of Hong Kong stocks was over HK$160 billion, nearly 70 percent higher than the level before the implementation of the National Security Law.
Of the funding sources, 64 percent were from overseas which not only amply demonstrates the extent of strong and solid internationalization of Hong Kong’s asset and wealth management business but also the investors’ confidence in the city as one of the major international financial centers with a robust financial system.
The robust rule of law is the cornerstone of the success of the HKSAR; and international commercial and investment activities can only thrive under a stable and rule of law-based environment. The findings in the Report are reassuring as Hong Kong’s sound and robust legal system with judicial independence are well-respected globally.
For example, Lord Sumption, a former justice of the UK Supreme Court and a non-permanent judge of Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, noted, “the permanent judiciary of Hong Kong is completely committed to judicial independence and the rule of law. Successive chief justices have made this clear in public statements…They represent the convictions of experienced, courageous and independent-minded judges.”
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It also explains why Hong Kong is ranked third in Asia in World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2020 which is comparable to or has surpassed other common law jurisdictions in many aspects. With Hong Kong taking pride in its strong rule of law and independent judicial power, it inevitably bolsters local and foreign investors’ confidence in Hong Kong, and augments Hong Kong’s overall business environment and competitiveness.
Lies told a hundred times won’t become facts. The Report issued by Chan is timely and persuasive to dispel all unfounded, scaremongering tales of Hong Kong’s business environment following the implementation of the National Security Law.
With full and updated information and data as evidenced in the Report, Hong Kong remains prosperous and vibrant with its enticing, competitive business environment to attract global talent and investors. For those Hong Kong residents who dither over whether to stay or leave for the UK, please first have a good read of the Report, and think of the empty supermarket shelves and supply shortages currently happening in the UK.
The author is chairperson of Y Legalities and a practicing solicitor in the HKSAR. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect those of the law firm for which he works.