Businesses in Hong Kong should think political - Monocolumn | Monocle


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2 April 2012

Ten days ago, Hong Kong went to the polls to elect its next leader. Well, a little over one one hundreth of one per cent of Hong Kong residents did anyway. Out of a population of roughly seven million, just 1,200 are allowed to vote for the chief executive post. And that’s a concession – the number of people allowed to vote used to be a third of that.

Since the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the issue of universal suffrage has been a bone of contention. Beijing promised it for this year. Now, hopes for a free vote are pinned on 2017.

As part of China, Hong Kong has to look to the leadership in Beijing but is supposed to have its freedom under the “One Country, Two Systems” rule until 2047.

As it stands, this system is easily gerrymandered by Beijing. The Election Committee – that select group of people; tycoons and political heavyweights who are allowed to cast their votes – are more often than not vetted by the Chinese government. So too with Leung Chun-ying who won the election the Sunday before last. Beijing put its weight behind him when its chief executive favourite Henry Tang was discredited by a series of miss-steps; an illegal wine cellar in the basement, being wined and dined by the city’s business tycoons, having an affair and perhaps even an illegitimate child.

Beijing switched sides and jockeyed the Election Committee to back Leung instead.

While Hong Kong-ers have staged protests against Leung, who despite his populist policies isn’t liked by the people because of his close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Hong Kong is good for China. It’s through Hong Kong much of China’s multi-billion dollar business is made. Hong Kong is the progressive side of this economic behemoth that is watched so closely around the world.

And Beijing wants Hong Kong to be the most sparkling of capitalist centres – it’s good for business. It doesn’t want China’s new billionaires to look towards other financial centres to invest their money. But that’s exactly what it happening. With Beijing meddling too much in Hong Kong’s body politic, China’s rich are increasingly looking towards places such as Singapore to do business.

But Hong Kong is still one of the world’s strongest financial centres. And though critics keep banging on about Hong Kong not being ready for free and fair elections, it’s time Hong Kong-ers took the recent protests from the hundreds to the hundreds of thousands.

It’s a given that Beijing would listen should Hong Kong stop trading for just a day in exchange for universal suffrage.

Why wait another five years to see if the comrades up north feel like giving Hong Kong-ers a say in their political future?


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