Hong Kong protests still threatening expat financiers’ lives

 Hong Kong protests still threatening expat financiers’ lives

Hong Kong protests still threatening expat financiers’ lives

As the Hong Kong protests become ever more violent, Shanghai and Singapore are threatening the island’s prime position as Asia’s major financial hub.

Protests are nothing new for Hong Kong’s expat residents, but the continuing street riots have now lasted for over five months and aren’t going away any time soon. For some years, financial experts have predicting the island’s fall as the Asian continent’s top international financial hub, but to date it’s always managed to recover. However, this time seems different, and top financiers are beginning to worry.

Several indications the city may not recover its reputation this time include recent transfers of wealth management assets to Singapore, Shanghai’s over-taking of stock trades and the numbers of expat financiers showing a sudden interest in buying pricey property both in Australia and other first world countries. Looming large in the background is mainland China and its military might, waiting on the doorstep for orders from Beijing.

There’s no doubt that the island’s laws have been perfect for China’s ambitions as regards world financial markets, with a number of financial players known to have roots on the mainland. Hong Kong’s rents are now through the roof, even although taxes have remained at a low point, and the escalating pro-democracy protests are bringing more and more disruption to everyday life. Add the fact that a recession is looming, and the perfect storm is out there, just waiting.

In the real world, investors have moved some US$4 billion overseas since August, with deposits flowing out of the city in the direction of Singapore faster than in many years, even although several banks are claiming the actual moves are relatively modest and the rest is just contingency plans. Chinese financiers are betting on Shanghai as the next world-dominant financial hub and the Economist Intelligence Unit is backing Singapore as the world’s top global business environment.

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