Asia Minute: Violence and Nerves in Hong Kong

Jul 30, 2019

This morning’s commute in Hong Kong was disrupted by protestors. It’s the latest development in a series of demonstrations that are continuing – with a widening impact.

Some organizers of the Hong Kong protest movement are calling this “the summer of our discontent.” The disruptions may seem ripped from the early scenes of a Shakespearean play, but more people are worrying about how this story may develop.

Monday, the Beijing-based Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the Chinese government held what the South China Morning Post said was its first news conference since the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997.

The office’s spokesman used a chilling phrase warning of the need to restore order — saying, “if Hong Kong continues to be chaotic, the whole society will have to pay the price.”

Voices from the business community are becoming more open about their concerns.

The president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said a survey of its members found “businesses are already reporting serious consequences from the disruption caused by weeks of mass demonstrations, political paralysis and outbreaks of violence and destructive acts in a city that has won an enviable reputation as one of the world’s safest places.”

Tara Joseph added “a clear majority” in that survey believed “the government needs to address the underlying causes of the protests and not simply paper over the cracks of social instability with a short-term law-and-order fix.”

Markets are reflecting caution: since early May, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is down more than 6.5% — while the S&P 500 is up nearly 3% over that same period.