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Hong Kong in the Balance

After months of large-scale protests in Hong Kong, the city's future as a bridge between mainland China and the outside world is in serious jeopardy. Fortunately, all sides share an interest in pursuing more inclusive growth within the "one country, two systems" framework that has been critical to Hong Kong's success.

MILAN – Hong Kong has long played an integral role in Asian and global economic development. But its future as a key nerve center for global business and finance is in serious jeopardy, as is its role as a bridge between mainland China and the outside world. Hong Kong has long been a place where global companies are welcome, and disputes are adjudicated impartially, transparently, and according to the rule of law. If that is no longer the case, it represents a tremendous loss for China, for Asia, for global business and finance, and especially for Hong Kong citizens.

Hong Kong has experienced an unprecedented 17 weeks of mostly peaceful demonstrations (occasional episodes of violence have attracted disproportionate media attention). The trigger was a proposed extradition law that many feared would extend the mainland’s reach into Hong Kong’s judicial system. The absence of any plan to bring together various protest groups and the Hong Kong government has become a source of growing concern.

Such a plan would need to do at least two things. First, all parties (including China’s central government in this case), need to recommit to the “one country, two systems” framework. Second, and perhaps more important, a coalition of representatives from government, business, and Hong Kong’s influential financial community should develop an aggressive plan for countering rising inequality and the disappearance of opportunities for those who are already struggling to make ends meet. Affordable housing for younger citizens is an especially urgent need.

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