Hong Kong is weathering the storm very well despite the usual critics.Jul 6, 2022
Nine months ago, and 15 months on from the implementation of the new national security law in Hong Kong P&I published a piece I put together summarising developments over those 15 months. Nine months later as Hong Kong celebrates the 25th anniversary of the handover in 1997 and two years on from the implementation of the NSL it seems appropriate to once again provide an update.
An update that seems particularly relevant coming as it does against a background of criticism from the usual suspects, the US, UK, and EU, and of course Chris Patten, claiming as usual without any actual evidence that Beijing is failing to honour the One Country Two Systems in its handling of Hong Kong. And of course, the usual litany from mainstream media telling of the demise of Hong Kong. The trouble is that these very same claims were made in 1997 in the run up to the handover, they proved wrong then and are being proved wrong now, and meanwhile most of us have grown accustomed to the hypocrisy coming from the envious “west”.
So how in HK doing?
First, yes, the recent months have been quite tough for Hong Kong as we suffered a fairly dramatic Omicron wave, which necessitated a range of measures by the government although none went as far as the lockdowns imposed in many other countries including Australia. HK never had any kind of mandatory vaccination, in spite of being described as a gulag state, which of course increased the vulnerability of the elderly but Hong Kong still sits well down the list of deaths per million in 83rd position.
- Stock market. Yes our stock market is considerably down on where it has been but then a number of factors are at play including the Covid situation in HK and on the mainland and also worldwide economic effects. HK’s position in world ranking of stock markets by capitalisation remains in the top 5, so much for forecasts of the collapse of the HK stock market.
- Despite the doomsday forecasts of the crash of the Hong Kong dollar no such thing has happened and it remains today trading at its normal range around 7.78 to 1 US$. So much for Kylie Bass’s bet against the Hong Kong Dollar. HK remains totally free of any kind of inbound or outbound monetary transfer restrictions.
- HK’s financial reserves continue to climb, standing at US$ 481 Billion at end March 2022. Nothing to see there.
- Property prices remain as robust as ever, with some recent sales of new developments being rapidly snapped up. The HK property price index remains in line with the 5 year average.
- Import and Export figures remain stable and indeed HK’s container port remains in the worlds 10 largest, in spite of the close proximity of major competitors in neighbouring Shenzhen and Guangzhou. On the air cargo side HK took the # 1 spot for international cargo tonnage in 2021.
- Hong Kong’s national debt to GDP figure at 0.27% puts it at the top of the list, compare to the US at 108 %. And given HK’s zero expenditure on defence, and its lack of participation in expensive foreign wars it seems likely that this figure can be easily maintained.
So it seems all is in good shape on the financial and trade side, in spite of the best efforts, particularly of the US, to undermine HK’s strengths in these areas.
How about some softer metrics?
- First and foremost, must be the question of whether millions of people would choose to leave Hong Kong in response to seductive immigration policies from the UK, Australia, Canada etc. While there is no doubt that a number of people have indeed taken up these offers the numbers fall far far short of the imagined millions, there is no great gaping vacuum in the Hong Kong population today and indeed there are a number of anecdotal stories of folks who chose to take the plunge finding that the grass is actually rather brown and muddy compared to the bright green they were led to believe would be waiting for them. And it seems highly likely that once the current covid obstacles to inbound travel are relaxed there will be more than enough people wanting to come to HK to replace those who have decided to move on.
- Second on the list would of course be how many people have been dragged off in the middle of the night under the NSL, never to see the light of day again. Actually, so far the total number of arrests falls slightly under 200 people, this is hardly the mass roundup envisaged by Western governments and media. Of course a few of the most hardline radicals have done a runner, Ted Hui is presumably still in Australia and Nathan Law in the UK, but both these folks seem to be out of ideas these days. A gulag HK is not.
- The demise of Apple Daily and its owner Jimmy Lai did of course generate lots of hot air from the usual crowd of politicians and media bemoaning the end of press freedom in Hong Kong. Again, this has not proved to be the case, there are still a good number of publications that are happily critical of the government and furthermore Hong Kong continues to have free and unfettered access to the complete Internet and global news media. And of course in that very media we can read how Julian Assange is locked up in UK’s Belmarsh Super Jail and will before long be extradited to the US, or how 37 prisoners remain rotting in the US’s Guantanamo Bay. And as the west grope with their own challenges, we increasingly hear that freedom of speech is not an absolute right. Double standards at play here?
- During the past 9 months the makeup of the Legislative Assembly has been overhauled. Both elected politicians and appointed civil servants are now required to undertake a pledge of allegiance to Hong Kong, on the basis that Hong Kong should be governed and administered by patriots. As usual such an approach was roundly condemned by the usual culprits but it is in fact in line with most countries including of course Australia. Move on, nothing to see here. And in fact since the elections for the restructured legislature at the end of last year the running of Hong Kong has gotten back onto a much more stable basis.
- And while on the subject of political structure it should be remembered that during much of the British administration there was no such representation, and to get it right first time around post 1997 was probably a very big ask. It is quite common for the US political system to be described as an experiment in democracy, which justifies changes made to the model along the way yet when it comes to any changes to the system in HK, which is still in its infancy, any change immediately receives harsh criticism from politicians and media alike.
Actually the people I feel most sorry for are those youngsters who were encouraged by both HK and western voices to go out, throw firebombs, trash the MTR and universities and generally go on an orgy of violence, which of course was blamed on the police. These youngsters, often university students, are steadily being brought before the courts, more often than not pleading guilty in the face of undeniable evidence and heading off to the delights of HK’s correctional services facilities aka. prisons, while most of those who encouraged them are sitting comfortably at home having never gotten their hands dirty. These folks should be ashamed of themselves.
Finally, when P&I published my first update from Hong Kong nine months ago it provoked a response from one Mr. Martin Painter who claimed that my views were that of an entitled expatriate out of touch with the “real” Hong Kong. In response I would like to point out that unlike Mr. Painter who no longer resides in HK I have a great deal of “skin in the game” having lived over 47 years in this ever evolving, dynamic city where East and West not only co-exist but also achieve great results, which I am privileged to call home and whose best years lie ahead.