HONG KONG (Reuters) – International businesses in Hong Kong see law and order as key for investing, a city government official said on Monday, in response to concern about the impact of a sweeping national security law on the business environment.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said in an interview at a Reuters Next conference that the fact that more money was coming into Hong Kong than leaving was a sign of confidence in the global financial hub.
Many businesses and trade associations have raised concern that a new security law, targeting activities in the former British colony that Beijing considers to be subversion, secessionism, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces, effectively brings Hong Kong closer to China’s authoritarian system and raises uncertainty.
“In any business, financial centre in particular, people would look at things in totality. Law and order is one very important thing,” Yau said.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement that promised it a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.
The city’s unbridled capitalism, guarantees of a wide range of rights and freedoms and independent legal system are widely seen as underpinning its success as a financial hub and interface for China and the world.
Since the imposition of the new security law in June, dozens of democracy campaigners including media tycoon Jimmy Lai have been arrested, some democratic lawmakers have been disqualified, activists have fled into exile and protest slogans and songs have been declared illegal.
Supporters of the law say it will bring stability after months of often-violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019.
Yau also said the novel coronavirus pandemic was causing uncertainty and there was “no silver bullet” to solve it, even as the city planned to roll out vaccines later in the year.
Yau said it was not easy to say when plans for a “travel bubble” arrangement with Singapore might resume.
The arrangement, allowing a limited number of passengers to fly both ways without having to quarantine was due to get going in November but was postponed indefinitely after an increase in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.
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(Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree and Clare Jim; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Robert Birsel)