Hong Kong’s autonomy key to its status as world’s financial centre

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Project Citizens Foundation is hosting a public forum on the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s financial success. Its founders are making a case for Hong Kong to uphold its autonomy, thereby also serving Beijing’s interest.

Photo: Policy Citizens Foundation Chairman Tsim Tak-lung (mid) alongside Vice-Chairman Cheung Yuk-tong (left) and director Tony Tsoi (right).


Hong Kong’s status as the world’s financial hub is vulnerable if policymakers pay no regard to the importance of ‘One Country, Two System (OCTS)’ in favour of their political agenda.

Policy Citizens Foundation (the Foundation), a local pro-democracy NGO advocating civic participation, will host a public forum on April 15 to discuss how the overarching principle of OCTS is connected to the city’s success as a financial centre. Titled ‘What Makes Hong Kong An International Financial Centre?’, the event will feature headliners including Financial Secretary John Tsang and current HSBC Group Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver as speakers.

Leading up to the event, Tsim Tak-lung (詹德隆), the Foundation’s chairman, sets the tone for the upcoming discussion.

As Mr Tsim puts it, there are four prerequisites that contribute to Hong Kong’s value as an international financial centre among investors. They are a stable political environment, the rule of law with high level of transparency, the freedom of the press, and an absence of foreign exchange control. But there have been increasing concerns over some of these factors being eroded.

“The fact that no communist state had ever established an international financial centre speaks for itself…If you ask me whether Shanghai or Shenzhen can replace Hong Kong, my answer is ‘No’,” Mr Tsim says, “I hope the [Hong Kong] Government would understand that [the status of] an international financial centre is very hard to re-establish once lost…It would be unwise to change the ‘Two Systems’ when it is acting as a pillar of that status.”

Moody’s earlier downgrading of Hong Kong’s economic outlook rating has become a warning signal for policymakers. For Mr Tsim, Moody’s move further strengthened the call for upholding the principle of ‘Two Systems’ which separates the financial institutions between Hong Kong and the mainland, while it also highlighted the failure of the administration to resolve divisions both within and outside the legislature.

“If Hong Kong is to retain its political stability and hence investors’ confidence, those in power should take the initiative in pursuit of a reconciliation [with the opposition].” Mr Tsim says. He believes that a person who has financial background and understands how Hong Kong’s economy functions could serve a better Chief Executive candidacy.

“The Financial Secretary could be a better candidate than CY Leung in this respect,” Mr Tsim postulates.

For Mr Tsim and his colleagues, the seemingly irreversible integration between Hong Kong and the mainland can still be an opportunity for Hong Kong’s youth.

“The bottom line is that we should not lower our standards over financial credibility and transparency to cater to those of mainland China,” says Tony Tsoi (蔡東豪), the Foundation’s director and founder of The House News and The Stand News. He uses an earlier attempt by Alibaba to launch IPO in Hong Kong as an example. “Hong Kong’s stock market is not designed to support weighted voting rights. The fact that the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing tried to cater to Alibaba’s ownership structure and proposed weighted voting rights, only for the Securities and Futures Commission to block it, is shocking to me.”

As Mr Tsim concludes, anything that damages OCTS would impact Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub. “It’s all about Hong Kong people’s way of life beyond 2047. Hong Kong people, policymakers and officials in Beijing should all understand the seriousness and importance of this topic.”