Issues simmer beyond extradition . . .
With rents in Hong Kong higher than Vancouver, San Francisco, New York, and London for apartments half the size, it is little wonder socioeconomic issues have surfaced in Hong Kong’s summer of protests. Hong Kong, often framed as a positive economic and social model straddling very different systems, now faces its most direct challenge in a generation after Sunday night’s bloody violence. While the proposed extradition bill served as the rallying cry, many protesters are now participating to challenge an economic system where the minimum wage is C$6 an hour, a home costs over 20 times the median salary, and the wait list for public housing has stretched past 250,000 people.
New allies . . .
While previous protest movements over the economy have typically drawn from workers and seen protests hit the commercial cores of Hong Kong, this summer’s movement appears to be drawing from a broader economic base. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce joined the city’s protesters this summer in calling for a formal withdrawal of the extradition bill, while protests are planned for all of Hong Kong’s districts – ultra-wealthy and low-income suburbs included – demonstrating just how cross-cutting the movement has become.
New impacts . . .
That prominent business voices have emerged in opposition to the extradition bill, if not in favour of the protests, is significant due to how close to home the protests have hit the city’s elites: the usually bustling Yuen Long business district became a ghost town on Monday, as citizens feared further escalation at the site of Sunday’s violence. Images of protesters blocking major city thoroughfares and retail outlets have kneecapped a strong start to tourism in 2019, and are likely to pose a significant risk if the demonstrations continue. Mainland tourists are important spenders worldwide, and especially in Hong Kong. It comes as no surprise that the Hong Kong Retail Management Association saw a majority of its members report single- to double-digit drops in sales revenue since the protests began, further hurting businesses and workers. There are some early indications that Canada’s large Hong Kong diaspora population could see even more Hong Kongers joining them soon, with Vancouver-based real estate brokers hinting at increased interest from Hong Kong buyers with Canadian passports.
- Bloomberg: Hong Kong’s economy starts to feel the hit from protest chaos
- Business Times: Hong Kong commerce chamber joins protesters on bill withdrawal
- South China Morning Post: Extradition protests hammer Hong Kong economy