More companies are now considering moving out of Hong Kong compared to a month ago, because of the national security law implemented by the regime in Beijing, according to a business survey released on July 13.
The law, which Beijing formally enacted with ceremonial votes on June 30, criminalizes individuals for any acts of subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with maximum penalties of life imprisonment.
The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong polled 183, or 15 percent, of its members from July 6 to July 9. Among those polled, 98 respondents are companies whose headquarters are located in the United States, along with 65 with headquarters in Hong Kong, and 13 based in Europe.
About 30 percent said they considered moving assets or business operations out of the city in the medium to long term, while about 5 percent said they were considering doing so in the short run. The combined percentage is about 6 points higher than AmCham’s previous survey released on June 3, when roughly 29 percent of 180 polled said they were considering a move.
In the current survey, one unidentified member said he had “concern about the free flow of informational and data integrity, as well as personal security.”
Another unnamed member cited a “sharply increased” political risk as the rationale for weighing a cut in business operations in the city.
When asked if they will consider personally leaving Hong Kong in light of the national security law, 48 percent said they will in the medium to long run, while almost 4 percent said they will in the short term. In the June survey, roughly 38 percent said they were personally considering leaving the city.
The June survey was conducted just days after China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, said they would adopt the law upon a ceremonial vote on May 28.
More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed said they felt the law was more stringent than what they expected, while about 40 percent said it was roughly what they expected.
“Almost every clause is overly general, with unchecked balance of power given to the CCP,” one unidentified respondent said.
About 78 percent of the respondents said they were either somewhat concerned or extremely concerned about the law. When asked to name those concerns, 65 percent said they were concerned about the “ambiguity in the scope and enforcement of the law,” almost 61 percent said they were worried about the law’s effect on the independence of Hong Kong’s judicial system, and 51 percent said the law “jeopardizes Hong Kong’s status as an international business center.”
One unnamed member was specific in his concern about “loss of freedom of expression and speech,” while another said the law “accelerates the shift of Hong Kong from an international business center into a mainland-focused business center.”
More than half (51 percent) said implementation of the law made them feel less safe living and working in Hong Kong, while only 26 percent said the law made them feel safer.
“Far less safe. Rule of law is disappearing,” one unnamed member stated.
“Despite being a foreign passport holder, the law could be applied to me and there’s no confidence of any protection in the courts,” another respondent said.
Almost 49 percent of respondents said their businesses will be negatively affected by the law, compared to the about 13 percent who said there will be a positive effect. Meanwhile, roughly 64 percent stated that the effect of the law on their business prospects will be negative, compared to 22 percent who said it would be positive.
More than two-thirds (67 percent) hold a pessimistic outlook about the overall business prospects in the city.
One unnamed respondent expressed fear about the loss of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
“Will my staff members be taken away because of what they posted on social media platforms? Will I still be able to read actual news or just Chinese propaganda?” the respondent said.
Another respondent said: “Hong Kong is no longer a free, transparent and fair market, with independent legal and judicial systems” due to the “death of ‘one country, two systems.’”
“One country, two systems” is the framework by which Beijing promised to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy upon the city’s transfer of sovereignty to China from the UK in 1997, in accordance with the 1984 handover agreement, the Sino-British Joint Declaration.