Projects

Leaving the family

Many families are challenged when a family member wants to disassociate themselves from the rest of the tribe. Usually this is based on having different ideological religious, or financial circumstances. The same happens amongst and within countries.

Over breakfast Carmenza and I discussed the history of events between Catalan and Spain. Being raised in Colombia she has a much greater understanding of the history and the economics of the Catalan region and the rest of Spain. I had not appreciated the huge cultural differences including language and the fact that Catalan provides more than 25% of Spain’s exports plus subsidises much of the rest of Spain through tax-redistribution.

As we chatted over breakfast, we discussed you may not like your family but you can’t leave it. You are who you are! And you’ll always be a member of the family.

Politically, perhaps this is a story one should not comment on but in reality, if all good people say nothing, nothing will occur and violence will beget more violence. This is not the mark of a civilised city like Hong Kong.

I began to imagine what would be the response inside the United States if Massachusetts, centred on Boston, decided it no longer wanted to be part of the indissolvable union which is the United States. I do remember vividly the arguments from both Queensland and Western Australia that they would be better off if they seceded from Australia. Then the counter arguments why should New South Wales centred on Sydney and Victoria with its capital of Melbourne subsidise services for the rest of Australia. Despite the posturing and political rhetoric neither tried to leave the Commonwealth of Australia and the citizens of Sydney and Melbourne continue to subsidise the rest of the country.

My real concern is that valid political argument is not being held, but people are resorting to violence rather than argument. There is no legitimacy to resorting to violence against your own people. Violence against the police violence against other Hong Kongers. The police have responsibility for maintaining law and order. This is what happens in civilised societies regardless of their political nature.

Last night Lee Hsien Loong, PM of Singapore, reminds us Hong Kong is a part of China – an SAR. he spoke with clarity and wisdom as to the position in Hong Kong. Whilst the origins and history of modern Hong Kong are a great interest there some realities which both sides of the argument for autonomy need to appreciate. Hong Kong is part of China. It is a special administrative region (SAR) with some different rules but it is part of China. For me it is no different to Bali is part of Indonesia and the Northern Territory is part of Australia. Bali and the NT each have special rules for example for tax – and they may have their own trade and tourism offices but they don’t have their own foreign policy, defence arrangements, national police, they do not have control of the tax system nor a separate currency. Hong Kong does have a separate currency and this is retained for good reason.

Now

Like many foreign business people I have a special place in my heart for Hong Kong and my memories of it. I was fortunate enough to be in Hong Kong at the time of the “handover” and to feel the apprehension and the joy of this great world city. At the time of re-joining China, Hong Kong contributed 25% of the combined GDP. In the intervening 20 years the mainland has grown dramatically and now Hong Kong is about 3% of China’s GDP. Hong Kong is the gateway for many of us to China because of its unique blend of East and West. This blend was reflected in the cities legal system and the huge number of expat professionals to ply their trades on a global basis based in Hong Kong.

This damage has been done over 20 weekends. Unfortunately, there is no sign that this will cease, rather there is every indication of more damage occurring. What has happened is not the sticking of Posted Notes on windows but the breaking of windows, not spray-painting but burning ATMs and damaging the vital rail infrastructure to such an extent that repeatedly people cannot travel to Central. This is self-defeating as people can’t go to work and business cannot be done.

I am continuing to travel to Hong Kong but I arrive on Mondays and make sure I leave the city by 4:30 on Fridays. I am sure that I am not alone in reducing my travel and ensuring I’m back in my hotel to have dinner.

Hong Kong must recognise its success and its trade (mostly services and value added to exports from the mainland) are dependent on its ongoing relationship with China.

Hong Kong runs the risk that instability continues that money will find other places to do business. Shanghai, Beijing, quandong, Shenzhen, and others have grown in the last 20 years. Also, many look to Singapore, and to a lesser extent Tokyo and Sydney, to fill part of the gap.

I do appreciate that many Hong Kongers have legitimate fears as to their ideological freedoms whether they be religious and/or political. This issue has confronted people before and nations like USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, etc have economic success based on entrepreneurial foreigners deciding to settle in new lands for many reasons.

Valid issues of culture, language, religious freedom and social tolerance have been lost by the introduction of violence.

It is what it is, and people in Hong Kong can make a choice. For people with means or ability the doors of countries like Australia, Canada, Singapore, Brazil, Malaysia, the United States and others remain open. And I do expect that the offices of migration agents in Hong Kong and elsewhere would be exceptionally busy especially as so many people in Hong Kong has studied and worked abroad and have family links abroad. At Projects RH we are receiving many enquiries for suitable investments to meet Australia’s investment visa requirements.

Looking Forward

Hong Kongers need to accept the reality and if they really don’t like it leave.
 
President Xi, some time ago, when referring to Hong Kong, said “No bloodshed, no compromise”. This statement shows discernment, wisdom and the willingness to do nothing – just sit and wait. Clearly, Xi knows he has time. When the “handover” occurred in 1997 full integration of Hong Kong into China, meaning the end of one country / two systems, seemed a long way away. We now know that the British believed that it within 50 years the China would move towards being a democracy. China has clearly changed since 1997 and the events of Tenormin Square over a decade ago years ago show then that the evolution of China was not towards a democracy is known in Britain or Singapore. What we have seen a rise is a China marked by socialism with Chinese characteristics a concept marketed by no less than President Xi.

 

Events occurring in Hong Kong, the fear that they will be replicated in Macau or even Guangdong, China’s continuing “One China Policy” with respect to Taiwan, reflects support for the view that life will continue to change in Hong Kong. It is not the five demands but the way they have been delivered that is an unacceptable even in a democracy. One only has to look at the response to what has occurred in Catalan, Spain, to see the demands of living in a civil society. In contrast, the people of Scotland may have protested that they have got most of what they want from United Kingdom without violence.

 

I don’t believe that China would have demanded substantial change in the way Hong Kong’s government is elected under the Basic Law and if this is ‘democracy’ for Hong Kong it would have become acceptable. What has not and cannot be acceptable is the extreme violent behaviour which has resulted in damage to police, infrastructure and to the economy.

 

Many countries will accept the highly skilled dissenters from Hong Kong and they will be replaced by entrepreneurial people who will be prepared to give 20 years or more of their life to building their careers in Hong Kong. These newcomers will come with eyes wide open what’s happening.

 

What the dissenters have succeeded in doing is not answering the core social issues, specifically the affordability of housing in Hong Kong, but to reduce the very lifeblood of Hong Kong which are visitors, trade and commerce. If this continues Hong Kong will dam itself as those seeking gateway to China coupled with the rule of law will look to dealing in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen etc even if this means completing their documentation in Singapore, Tokyo or Sydney.

 

Despite statements from some protesters no foreign power will seek to intervene. The inevitable return of Hong Kong to China was locked in as a result of the Second Opium War when the return of the so-called New Territories or Kowloon was agreed to 99 years after the execution of the peace treaty. The adding of Hong Kong Island to this was a practical reality as the island needs power and water, which it cannot supply to itself.

 

Hong Kong and Hong Kongers needs to learn to deal with life on life’s terms otherwise it’s very need for existence may disappear and for one who has great memories, ongoing commercial dealings and a deep love of Hong Kong this would be a great shame. Ongoing violence is not an answer.
 
Paul Raftery

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