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October 4, 2014

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Investment concerns over HK protests grow

CALLS grew yesterday for Hong Kong’s “free and sound” investment climate to be protected and illegal Occupy Central gatherings ended after the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced late Thursday evening that he will not resign.

Leung is appointing Chief Secretary Carrie Lam as government representative to talk with students participating in the Occupy Central movement.

Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong’s busiest areas since September 28 have led to serious traffic disruption, temporary closure of schools and banks and a slump in the Hang Seng Index. Protest organizers want central authorities to change a decision on Hong Kong’s electoral system.

The plummeting stock market reflects international investors’ worries about the situation, said Wang Jun of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, adding that besides a tradition of the rule of law, the region attracts investment through a sound and fair market order.

“Investor confidence will be affected if the illegal gatherings continue,” he said, adding that Hong Kong’s international credit ratings could also suffer.

It is estimated that Occupy Central will cost Hong Kong HK$40 billion (US$5.15 billion). Central is the financial hub’s core.

Further capital outflow is inevitable and Hong Kong’s status will suffer, said Ding Zhijie of Beijing’s University of International Business and Economics.

Leung and Lam held a short press conference at Government House in Central District on late Thursday night, minutes before a deadline set by students demanding Leung’s resignation.

Constitutional reform

Leung stressed that he will not resign, saying he will continue to work for promoting Hong Kong’s constitutional reform which aims at universal suffrage to elect the region’s next chief executive in 2017.

The Chief Executive said the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and the police force have shown the greatest patience and endurance in the past five days.

Leung hoped that all circles in society could continue to carry forward the constitutional reform in a pragmatic, rational and peaceful manner.

Golden Week is usually peak tourist season in Hong Kong, but this year visitor numbers are plummeting, said Wei Xiaoan of the World Tourism Cities Federation.

“Transport, lodgings, dining and shopping are inconvenienced. Personal safety is not guaranteed. Who wants to go there?” Wei said.

October 1, the first day of the National Day holiday, saw 30,000 fewer mainland visitors than last year. Over Golden Week, about 20 to 30 percent fewer mainland tourists are expected than last year.

More than 200 Hong Kong hotels will probably lose nearly HK$100 million a day, according to the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners.

Critics in different countries have denounced the illegal Occupy Central gatherings.

Martin Jacques, a Guardian columnist, wrote a commentary titled “China is Hong Kong’s Future — Not its Enemy” on Wednesday.

He said that it should be remembered that for 155 years until its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong had been under British colonial rule. Democracy was actually introduced to Hong Kong by the Chinese government, added Jacques.

Pierre Picard, a China expert from the University of Paris-VIII, said some Western countries used double standards on the Occupy Central movement.


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