Is Hong Kong finished as Asia’s financial hub?

Is Hong Kong finished as Asia’s financial hub?

Is Hong Kong finished as Asia’s financial hub?

As the Hong Kong riots become a way of life, many are wondering if China will let the island go and embrace Macau or another Asian city as its replacement?

For decades, a posting to Hong Kong has been the holy grail of expats in the financial sector, and not just for the chance to make an eye-wateringly high salary. Ever since the former British colony was handed back to China, it’s been the number one destination for high flyers from across the world. The recent visit of the Chinese leader to Macau marked the 20th anniversary of that city's transfer from Portugal to China, with the side effect of a none-too-subtle message to Hong Kong.

Expats may believe the leader’s emphasis on another expat hub is simply aimed at calming down the Hong Kong situation, but are forgetting China’s been less than happy about the island for a decade or so. China now seems to have realised that international financial businesses were happy to work with and in Hong Kong simply because it wasn’t China. The differences are huge, including a lack of Chinese-style bureaucracy, visa-free entries, free access to the internet, expats not forced to register with police and churches permitted.

All the above in a nutshell represents free flow of capital, freedom of expression, legal protection for international companies and much more, all of which added up to the island’s fame as an international financial centre beloved by expat residents as well as locals. It’s obvious to China’s leaders that none of their vast country’s huge cities can replace Hong Kong, making promoting Macau a sensible option.

Expat professionals and their international banking employers might well not be overjoyed to be told they’re moving to a location chosen by China which isn’t half as appealing as Hong Kong at its worst, especially as the word on the street right now is ‘Singapore’ – already a major business hub and generally unresponsive to China and its plans for the future of international finance in Asia.

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