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.
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.