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16 Oct, 2014

Chinese commentary: How long can HK keep on squandering?

(People’s Daily Online), October 15, 2014 – After one unreasonable demand after another, after every new incident of tedious political wrangling provoked by pan-democratic camps like the Civil Party, Hong Kong – a district which once surpassed the mainland in efficiency and ranked among the strongest in the world – is losing ground. Now beginning to blatantly break the law and defy public order, the Occupy Central movement has tuned into an unprecedented defiance against both central government and the local Hong Kong government. Every new move increases the price that Hong Kong will have to pay for this political chaos.

A serious question: how much can Hong Kong carry on squandering?

The direct economic costs Hong Kong has paid for this Occupy Central turmoil mainly involve increased spending for dealing with the unrest, lost share value caused by the faltering stock market, and loss of revenues to catering, retail and tourism during the National Day vacation. According to Lei Dingming, an economics professor of HKUST (Hong Kong University Of Science & technology), HK has lost 350 billion HK dollars in the period since the unrest began to October 7th. These direct losses, increasing day by day, will never be recouped if the Occupy Central activity escalates.

The shipping and intermediary trade have grown in influence in Hong Kong’s economy as its manufacturing industries have shrunk. Of the special administrative regions’ total foreign trade of over 7 trillion HK dollars in 2012, intermediary trade amounted to 3.4 trillion, which was equivalent to 179 percent of Hong Kong’s GDP that year. If this sector of economic activity gets disrupted the economy will suffer severely. With the approach of the busy Christmas exporting season, considering the obstinacy and the ill-will of the British and American “players” behind the unrest, Hong Kong is going to lose a lot more yet in this long drawn chaos.

More importantly, the Occupy Central movement has also caused indirect losses. Local residents, especially young people, depend on such opportunities to be able to settle down and move forward. In recent years, it is hard to put a figure on the value of the opportunities lost because of the endless and intensifying turmoil. As the pan-democratic camps have increased their activity over the years, it has become apparent that Hong Kong’s annual economic growth rate has fallen far behind that of the mainland, and those of many other burgeoning areas in the Asian market, like its direct competitor Singapore for example.

But the unrest in HK has minimal impact on the overall economy of the mainland. When the Civil Party encouraged Zhu Qihua to stop work on the Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, the other two parties in Zhuhai and Macau started their projects as scheduled. If the Hong Kong docks are taken out of service, export and shipping companies will simply move their activity to nearby mainland ports like Yantian, Huangpu and Gaolan. If Hong Kong’s financial market falls into disorder, markets on the Chinese mainland and in the U.S. will still operate just fine. Even Hong Kong’s status as a free port could be transferred to SFTZ (Shanghai Free Trade Zone) and a large number of other cities trying to be become members of the FTA (Free Trade Areas). But the question is: where are the opportunities in all this for Hong Kong’s youth?

Among the youth who have participated in this movement, some simply want to vent their anger over the shrinking space for mobility in society, which is denying them hope for the future. But will this disturbance result in a vicious circle of political turmoil leading to a loss of job opportunities, leading to an increasing tendency for youth unrest, leading to a further loss of job opportunities?

After halting work on the HK section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, Zhu Qihua, who once positioned herself as a champion of justice, is now universally condemned by neighbors, friends, and family – even her son and her daughter-in-law. The lawyers of the Civil Party who were once her backers now try to pass the buck elsewhere. Where in any of this are the opportunities for Hong Kong’s youth?

This article is edited and translated from 《香港还有多少家底可供糟蹋?》,source: People’s Daily Overseas Edition, author: Mei Xinyu