Is It Business As Usual During The Hong Kong Protests?

Author:Mr Mark O'Sullivan
Profession:TMF Group

The world's imagination has been caught up in the Hong Kong protests this week, but how has the unrest impacted Asia's First City of Finance?

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents have been drawn to the streets to join the pro-democracy movement, demanding the right to elect their chief executive by universal suffrage in 2017.

What started as a student's class boycott has now turned into the biggest civil movement in the city for decades, now coined the "Umbrella Revolution". Ordinary citizens (some with young children and toddlers) are marching into the streets appealing for electoral reform.

Unlike demonstrations in other parts of the world, the highly civil-minded protesters do not have an anti-business agenda. They are following their non-violent principles closely; retail shops are left unscratched and signs apologising for the inconvenience caused by the protest can be seen everywhere. Volunteers diligently work to clean up the streets, pick up garbage and separate recyclables every morning, remove graffiti created by fellow protestors and create lanes to enable smooth passage for emergency vehicles. Some of them even offer various free services, from haircuts, massages, counselling, and legal advice to holding classrooms on the streets for students.

But what of the economy?

While immediate adverse market impacts of the protests can be felt, it is more important to look at its long-term effect on the city's economy through fundamentals. The strength of Hong Kong as a global city and international business centre lies in its institutions that ensure transparency, ease of doing business and the rule of law. As long as the independence of the city's legislature, executive, judiciary and media are intact, the long-term outlook remains optimistic and its status as an international financial hub is all but guaranteed.

Hong Kong has long served as the facilitator of trade between China and the rest of the world. For the foreign investor, the city is their gateway for investing in China as it offers a stable operating environment with long-established rule of law. Last year alone, Hong Kong accounted for...

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