Source: Global Times Published: 2019-8-13
An increasing number of Hong Kong-based real estate companies are voicing their support for the special administrative region's government and opposition to violent protests, raising alarm over the devastating impact the unrest will have on the local economy.
On Tuesday, 41 developers belonging to the Real Estate Developers Association (REDA) of Hong Kong issued a joint statement voicing their opposition toward increasingly violent protests and vandalism in the city, saying these incidents are seriously encroaching on Hong Kong's core value of the rule of law and increasing the economic downward pressure on the city.
The signatories include CK Asset Holdings, Henderson Land Development, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Sino Group, Wheelock Properties and Chinachem Investment Co, among others.
The membership of the REDA represents some of the biggest names in Hong Kong's business world, including Li Ka-shing, Lee Shau-kee, Wu Ying-sheung, Peter Woo Kwong-ching and Ronnie Chan Chi-chung.
The trade association has 250 business members.
However, Wharf Holdings, owner of the Harbour City commercial estate, which has become a focal point of public anger after two cases of desecration of Chinese national flags, was not among the signatories. The company issued a separate statement saying that the incidents "infringed on the national dignity" on Monday night.
But some media noted that the statement was written in simplified Chinese and was not released to Hong Kong media, according to domestic news site guancha.cn on Tuesday.
Wharf Holdings is a premier Hong Kong-based company and the parent company of Harbour City, one of the most popular destinations for visitors from the Chinese mainland.
In a statement on Monday, Peter Woo Kwong-ching, Hong Kong business tycoon and owner of Harbour City, said the current protests in Hong Kong have exceeded the intent of the original "anti-extradition bill" demonstrations and escalated to become a political reform movement in disguise that aims to "adjust the Basic Law."
Experts said more entities have voiced their support for the SAR government in recent days.
"The speech by Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, at a Shenzhen symposium has had a huge social impact and big real estate developers have stepped forward to voice their stance. They did not do this even during the Occupy Central movement" in 2014, an insider told the Global Times on Tuesday.
On August 7, Zhang said at a symposium in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, held to discuss the situation in Hong Kong, that the protests in the SAR bore the features of a "color revolution," and urged more people to stand up and speak out for justice to break "a dreadful silence."
The REDA immediately issued a statement condemning the escalating violence in the city, with a total of 17 signatories in the August 8 statement. Tuesday's statement, which saw the number of signatories increase to 41, used harsher words.
"The (violence) has infringed on the core value of the rule of law in Hong Kong, putting downward pressure on the Hong Kong economy and threatening the safety of citizens… staining the Chinese national flag is challenging national sovereignty," the statement said.
Wharf Holdings' absence from the joint statement drew criticism from some observers. Some shopping malls have shown unwelcome attitude toward police officers during the past weeks.
Dong Shaopeng, a senior research fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that some major enterprises in Hong Kong have taken an ambiguous attitude on political matters, which is a disease of society and should be criticized.
The cultivation of Hong Kong's business environment should not be solely up to the nation or the SAR government. Major business entities also have a responsibility to maintain stability instead of taking nearly two months to issue a statement, Dong noted.
"National identity and a sense of social responsibility are critical for companies to lead prosperous development in any place in the world. Such belated responses of certain market entities including Harbour City are unsatisfactory," Dong said.
The trade association's voice came as an increasing number of social entities voiced their opposition toward lingering chaos in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's exports slumped 9 percent in June year-on-year, reported CCTV on July 25, citing Chan King, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese Importers' & Exporters' Association. "The turmoil should be stopped, or the local economy would fall into crisis," Chan said.
Jason Wong, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV that 20 to 30 percent of group tours to Hong Kong have been canceled in recent weeks, and hundreds of thousands of industry practitioners would be affected by the riots.
Dong Shaopeng is senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.