Is it all over for the Hong Kong expat community?

Posted on 19 Aug at 6 PM in Working Abroad
Story link: Is it all over for the Hong Kong expat community?
Is it all over for the Hong Kong expat community?

Is it all over for the Hong Kong expat community?

If you’re banking your career future on a stint in Hong Kong, you many well have missed the boat!

As protestors storm Hong Kong’s streets for the 12th week in a row, expat talk in trendy bars in the city’s financial district turns to the inevitability of an intervention by the Chinese army. The formerly unthinkable fact of a recession due to the weakening economy is pricking the privileged bubbles lived in by almost all expats on the island. Protestors hurling street signs and bricks at police firing tear gas volleys don’t fit with the former British colony’s reputation for an unbeatably desirable lifestyle.

Considered as one of the planet’s most successful financial hubs, the city is, or perhaps was, a prime destination for the brightest and best in the sector, but the ongoing protests are increasingly demonstrating that its days as a stable environment for business may well be over. Protestors are getting new ideas, with one group calling on every citizen to withdraw HK$10,000 from ATMs, a plan designed to cause a run on Hong Kong’s banking system. The result is unclear, but a good few ATMs ran out of cash.

For a while now, Hong Kong has been pushed as a gateway for China’s mega-wealthy investors, but the length of this protest and the lack of signs of its fading are causing financiers to consider the unthinkable – that the city’s world financial prominence is becoming marginalised. International banks are on temporary closure along with luxury brand hotels, and Disney has warned its investors the ongoing protests are having an effect. Everyone’s biggest fear is capital withdrawal, along with a Chinese mainland takeover as its spur.

Foreign multinationals are urging Beijing to preserve Hong Kong’s unique status as the gateway to China for major foreign companies, stressing their withdrawal will hurt China in the long run, but some experts now believe the city’s importance to the mainland is diminishing as Shenzhen and Shanghai continue their rise to prominence. As for Hong Kong’s privileged expat financial community and its luxury-loving lifestyle, there may be a comparison to be made with the last days of the Indian Raj some 72 years ago.

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