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Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 00:09
Hong Kong society must focus on the real concerns
By Zhou Bajun
Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 00:09 By Zhou Bajun

Currently Hong Kong society’s attention is focused mainly on China-US relations and the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (Amendment) Bill 2019, commonly known as the fugitive law amendment bill. But people here are overlooking the downward spiral of the US economy and its impact on the global economy and also Hong Kong’s economy. 

It is understandable that many Hong Kong residents care a lot about the China-US trade talks, especially after more than a year of failed negotiations; some of them are worried the amended fugitive laws may allow those wanted on serious criminal charges to be rendered to the mainland to face trial, be it mainland, Hong Kong or foreign residents in the city. However, many people are worried because they have been misled by certain Western governments led by Washington and anti-central government, anti-communist forces in Hong Kong.

The fact is the US side has insisted that China further open its economy and domestic market in bilateral trade talks and other Western countries have such expectations. Somehow those Western countries and the US in particular have gone to great lengths to depict all their citizens and businesses in Hong Kong as possible fugitives who may have committed crimes on the mainland and may be in danger of being extradited to the mainland if the fugitive law amendment bill becomes law. These kinds of lies are simply unbelievable considering there are more US nationals and businesses on the mainland than in Hong Kong at any given time and neither they nor the US government seem worried about such “dangers” at all. Equally outrageous is the tireless bashing of the mainland’s judicial system, which the Western governments and opposition camp in Hong Kong are calling a “grave threat” — but apparently only to Hong Kong society and foreign nationals in Hong Kong, not their citizens and businesses on the mainland.

The Trump administration has also targeted other countries with protectionist measures besides China. Such counter-globalization policies are not only weakening the US economy but also casting a grave risk of a recession for Hong Kong’s economy

Those Western governments led by Washington and their proxies in Hong Kong managed to hoodwink some Hong Kong residents into believing these big fat lies, thanks to groundless elaborations by biased media and some professional societies openly opposed to the central government at all times. Some of those Hong Kong residents have never set foot on the mainland; while some others do not live or work there. Some have made a lot of money doing business on the mainland but all of a sudden believe the amended fugitive laws will put them in danger of being handed over to the mainland as wanted criminals. Under normal circumstances only the paranoid could be so easily scared.

In view of the current situation, the SAR government should, in addition to resuming second reading debate of the fugitive law amendment bill by the Legislative Council (LegCo), step up efforts in explaining the bill to all sectors of Hong Kong society. This is not to say it is unnecessary to thoroughly explain the bill to foreign consuls general and chambers of commerce in Hong Kong, but the fact is certain foreign diplomats and business leaders in Hong Kong cannot be reasoned with for obvious reasons. That is why the government should focus on explaining the bill to the general public.

All Hong Kong residents should know they need not worry as long as they do not violate any law on the mainland. Only the guilty have a reason to fear justice no matter where they are. Besides, the government has provided further safeguards by limiting extradition requests to serious crimes only. Why should anyone fear they may be charged with any serious crime if they have never broken any mainland law?

Meanwhile, the government should also bring public attention to the current situation of the US economy and global economy.

The US Department of Commerce on May 30 released its revised first quarter (Q1) data, which shows its gross domestic product increased only 3.1 percent year-on-year, 0.1 percentage points lower than the previous version. On June 3, the Institute for Supply Management noted in a report that the US’ main purchasing managers index (PMI) stood at 49.8, the lowest since October 2016; while financial information service provider IHS Markit announced the US manufacturing industry PMI in May stood at 50.5, about 2 percentage points lower than in April and the lowest since September 2009. As the US manufacturing industry PMI fell to a 10-year low in May, manufacturing industry around the world also recorded the weakest performance since 2012.

According to numbers released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on May 28, multiple G20 economies reported lower Q1 export growth rates than Q4 last year, including Russia, South Korea, Indonesia and Japan.

On June 3, Morgan Stanley warned that the current economic situation is worse than a slowdown, “if the Trump administration raises tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese exports to 25 percent and China retaliates, a global recession may start within nine months”.

The ongoing trade war was initiated by the US. The Trump administration has also targeted other countries with protectionist measures besides China. Such counter-globalization policies are not only weakening the US economy but also casting a grave risk of a recession for Hong Kong’s economy. As a matter of fact, monthly statistics for April and May already showed a considerable slowdown so far this year.

All sectors of Hong Kong society must focus on the economic downturn and increasing financial risks. This should be done while accelerating the pace of integrating Hong Kong’s development into the nation’s overall development strategy, especially the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area vision.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

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