HONG KONG – American companies operating in Hong Kong should reassess their operations and decide whether the risks of operating there are worth it, the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said on Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Tara Joseph said Hong Kong companies were caught in the midst of antagonism between the United States and China. His remarks followed a notice issued by the US government on Friday warning businesses of the risks in the former British colony.
Relations between the United States and China have deteriorated amid a trade war and growing tensions over Chinese measures to curb political dissent in Hong Kong. The Biden administration cited Hong Kong’s changing legal landscape and the Communist government’s tightening of control in Beijing as growing risks.
“The business landscape has certainly become more complex than before, we are definitely in a new normal when it comes to business here,” said Joseph.
“What is of concern overall, not just with this advice, would be a constant exchange between the United States and China when it comes to Hong Kong. . . (which) in many ways is caught right in the middle, ”she said.
The US government advisory said operating in Hong Kong could lead to reputational and legal damage and data privacy risks.
Hong Kong officials called it an “unfounded fear announcement”, accusing the United States of hypocrisy and double standards.
Beijing goes back on the freedoms promised for 50 years in Hong Kong when Britain handed over the colony in 1997. The imposition of a sweeping national security law last June has led to the arrest of more than 100 supporters pro-democracy, including Jimmy Lai, whose pro-democracy Apple Daily was forced to close after authorities arrested at least seven of his employees and froze millions of dollars in assets.
Over the past year, authorities in Hong Kong have changed election laws, arrested many of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy activists, and banned large-scale protests citing risks to the public health of the city. pandemic, despite months of a few coronavirus infections. These measures have drawn criticism from the United States and other Western governments.
China fired back, saying Hong Kong issues are part of China’s internal affairs and other governments should not interfere.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong represents American business interests in the city. He doubled that commitment by purchasing a new office to make his job easier, the organization said last week.
Joseph said the board of the Biden administration could influence the outlook for American companies that were not already operating in Hong Kong. But the city remains an important hub for doing business with mainland China.
Hong Kong has a separate customs territory and apparently an independent judiciary, although the recent trend to designate many matters as falling under national security law has raised concerns among experts that the city’s notorious “rule of law” is be undermined.
“Right now, the rule of law is what really drives businesses here in an international environment. At this point the commercial law looks very strong and it is very important for the business community, ”said Joseph.
“But any sign that this is unraveling or that real changes are happening there could cause a lot of concern,” she said.
Joseph said she hopes Hong Kong manages to maintain these global standards.
“So anything that takes that away may make it harder for Hong Kong to maintain its role, but hopefully there will be a better understanding and recognition that it’s a win-win for people to keep their businesses here and for Hong Kong to maintain its position as a gateway, ”she said.
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