maanantai 6. heinäkuuta 2020

Hongkong - 香港 - Hong Kong

In 1985 I started to travel extensively in Asia and Hongkong has been my most frequent stop ever since. The vibrant city was more than an English banking centre in the corner of the world. The melting pot of several ethnic groups, cultures and ways of living made it very unique.
I learnt to know lots of people, made business, made lifetime friends, and regardless of turns in economy and world politics everything looked positive. The city never slept.

Came 1997 and Hongkong, Kowloon, New Territories and islands were handed over to PRC.
UK govt. negotiations since 1971 produced no firm consensus and with a promise of “on country, two systems” the British rule came to its end. I recall Lord Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong to stay very tight lipped during the hand over ceremony. However, back in UK he repeatedly expressed that the Sino-British Joint Declaration actually meant nothing to Beijing. I agreed then and I agree today with Mr. Patten. There is a say, that a written agreement means in China “The best understanding what was discussed in the meeting among the attendants”. 

Banking and business continued in Hong Kong, but the future of citizens started to look gloomy. Southern China grew exponentially as “the factory of the world” and Hongkong was a natural hub of transactions and to certain extent still a logistic hub, too. Opportunistic way of doing things strengthened and mutual trust eroded. In early 21st century I learnt through the hard way that “short term” meant in Hong Kong “overnight”. What as earned yesterday, was brought over from China and transferred to a safe place overseas. People, who did not see future in Hongkong migrated rapidly and followed the money they had invested overseas, especially in Canada and Australia/New Zealand.

When my direct contacts with friends and business associates decreased in 2010s, I started to look the development more as an outsider. I am still amazed how rapidly Beijing managed turn the people of Hongkong against itself. The legislative Council of Hong Kong is gradually changed to another provincial government of PRC to execute the Central Government orders, word for word.
Even more amazing is the way how the Central Government of China undervalues the importance of Hongkong as the banking centre. Stable political environment is the foundation of stable economic system and bankers are the most alerted to any negative changes in politics. They hang around as long as money can be made, but the suitcases are packed and flights booked, every day.

The new national security law of Hong Kong came into force on the 30th of June 2020, the very same day the NPCSC unanimously passed it on. Already on the following day the first demonstrators were arrested based on the new law and the juridical system started its process. The crime was to lift a banner that have been used for many months since the start of the unrest on Hongkong island.
Objections made by USA and UK are just big words. One country, one system is de facto in effect and a new page is turned in China´s history where Hongkong is a small footnote. Lord Patten´s words are still valid.
The task list of Beijing looks like: 
-       Macao : done
-       Hongkong : done
-       Taiwan : in progress

I will still visit Hongkong, when the COVID-19 one day is over. However, Hongkong I learned to love is gone.

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