Living and working for the past seven months in Hong Kong has been nothing less than dream. Hong Kong is full of all the luxuries of the west, but also has a charm that only the east could provide. I have been treated to fun and exciting things to do on a weekly basis, and although the air pollution is terrible compared to San Diego, it doesn’t hold a candle to the levels in some of the cities in Mainland China.
Yet, things in Hong Kong aren’t all they seem to be. There is an anxiety about the city. The leadership of the CCP in the Mainland has said a number of times that they hope to turn Shanghai into a major financial center by 2020. Obviously this would transfer the center of ‘financial services’ gravity away from Hong Kong, a financial service heavy economy, challenging the city to find new industries to keep it relevant and to maintain its high standard of living. But to be honest, when Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang announced his plan to add new industries to Hong Kong’s repertoire a couple months ago, few seemed to take him serious. Economically speaking, Hong Kong could be looking at a difficult future.
So why am I not scared for Hong Kong?
I regularly read one of Hong Kong’s free newspapers: The Standard. Earlier this week, as I was flipping through the pages on my lunch break, I got to a cluster of articles under the “China” section. The first was an article entitled “Internet fears deepen over ‘white list’ bid”. Apparently Beijing plans to block even more websites from people using websites in the Mainland. They say that this is to block the growing number of porn websites but politically dissenting websites will almost certainly be blocked too.
The next article was about a Father who started a website for parents of children who became ill from drinking tainted milk (tens of thousands of children became sick after executives at a baby formula factory put an industrial chemical into the formula to boost protein levels). The website was designed to provide information and resources to parents. The Father was arrested and jailed for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
The last article was of a 53-year old man who was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for co-authoring a widely circulated petition that called for political reform (what was this guy thinking?). After a year, he is finally going to trial. European and US diplomats have been barred from attending the trial.
The collection of these three articles was too much for me. I started laughing. If I’m a country, I would be doing my best to make my country as enticing as possible to global talent. Yet it seems like the government is doing everything it can to make the prospect of life in China a nightmare. As a foreigner, I’m giving a lot of thought to if I ever want to work in the mainland. Can I get away with living and officing in Hong Kong, and just visiting the Mainland? Would any foreigner in their right mind ever think of setting up a ‘life’ in this country? Currently facebook is blocked there. When you consider the fact that the language barrier in even the most developed cities is still a very big issue, keeping in touch with friends from home (via facebook) is a very important thing.
The top global talent will continue to flock to Hong Kong. The economic opportunities of China combined with the freedoms and luxuries that only a global city like Hong Kong could provide will ensure this. As long as the leadership in China continue to make stupid moves, no foreigner in their right mind would bother to stick around the Mainland after their fortune has been made.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!!