More than two-thirds of US chamber of commerce members surveyed have expressed concern about Hong Kong’s recently imposed national security legislation, with most citing its ambiguity in scope and enforcement.
The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) polled 183 – or 15 per cent – of its more than 1,600 members between last Monday and last Thursday to gauge their thoughts on the controversial law, which critics have said aims to stomp out political dissent.
Drafted without local legislative oversight, the sweeping law criminalises secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in the city following months of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.
AmCham said almost 40 per cent of respondents said they were “extremely concerned” about the legislation, whilst 36.98 per cent were “somewhat concerned,” 10.93 per cent were “not too concerned” and 11.48 per cent were “not concerned at all.”
Members acknowledged a potential decline in civil unrest following the enactment of the law. However, they identified questions over the city’s judicial independence, its status as an international business centre, the erosion of autonomy, data security fears, government retaliatory measures and a talent drain or staffing issues as causes for concern.
“Hong Kong will [no] longer be a platform for investment flows and sanctuary to house contractual agreements because the rule of law no longer exists,” one member was quoted as saying.
“I am more concerned about the protracted street violence since [last June] that has made Hong Kong unsafe for its own citizens and tourists from the mainland,” another comment read.
Asked about exit strategies, interviewees were divided equally with 48.09 per cent saying they had plans to leave in the medium-to-long run, with the exact same proportion saying they didn’t.
More than half of respondents said the law made them feel “less safe” living in Hong Kong, 22.40 per cent said they did not know or could not tell, whilst 26.23 per cent said they felt safer.
“A few positive members in this survey regarded the [national security law] as a short-term shock and beneficial for long-term stability, but most were worried that the values and institutions which have contributed to Hong Kong’s past successes as a global financial centre will diminish as a result of the [national security law],” the international chamber wrote.
AmCham has previously expressed concern over the potential of the security law to impact business confidence in the semi-autonomous financial hub. It said in a statement on July 2 that it hoped the government would further clarify how the law would be interpreted, implemented, and explain its implications for US businesses operating and investing in Hong Kong.
‘Squeeze Hong Kong’s financial system’
Also on Monday, US Senator Marco Rubio said in a press release that “America must now move quickly to protect its economic and national security interests and the people of Hong Kong as the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] solidifies control over the formerly autonomous city.”
He called on the US State Department to recommend against travel to the city: “The most challenging question is how hard to squeeze Hong Kong’s financial system, which until now served as an airlock between China and the world.”