Hurting Hong Kong's economy is never a good idea
Huang Jiyuan
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Editor's note: Huang Jiyuan is an opinion editor with CGTN Digital. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Nine weeks in and there is no end in sight.

Protests in Hong Kong have been escalating. The civil unrest has turned into flag-throwing, vandalizing of police stations and flame-lighting riots that have plagued every part of the city. The once weekend-centered protests are now spilling into weekdays. As the city braced for a general strike on Monday, more than 200 flights were canceled, several lines of subway and rails shut down, and businesses and restaurants closed for business. Residents are stuck at the airport, waylaid on their way to work and suffering economic losses with the city grinding to a halt.

This might not matter to the protesters as they enjoy their "big day," but turning the economy into collateral damage for their puritanical pursuit is not a good idea. For a city like Hong Kong where business and financial services are a pillar of its prosperity, the economy is dependent on the confidence that security and stability bring.

Electronic ticker board and screens displaying stock figures outside the Exchange Square complex, where the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is located, in Hong Kong, China. /VCG Photo

Electronic ticker board and screens displaying stock figures outside the Exchange Square complex, where the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is located, in Hong Kong, China. /VCG Photo

Security and stability are what bring foreign and domestic investors to a city. Investors tend to put their money where they are confident about the long-term prospect of their investments. The more chaotic the city is, the less confidence it exudes. And with less confidence, investors are more likely to put their money elsewhere. And Hong Kong hasn't exactly been a poster child for confidence. Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Chen Maobo said bluntly in the press conference Monday morning that there is a "lack of energy for our economy" and that investment had fallen by 12 percent in the second quarter, reaching the lowest level for the past 10 years. Across retail, export and import sectors, the growth rate declined in the second quarter.

And this was before Monday's industrial action. The news of the strike shut down the city's public transportation system and many businesses. The Hang Seng Index experienced its biggest decline in months, with a 2.35 percent fall last Friday. And on Monday, it fell more than 2 percent even before the strike began. With the already poor economic performance and the anticipated paralyzing of the city, one could only imagine that the economy is going to take greater hits in the coming days.

Protesters holding umbrellas on Nathan Road in Mong Kok, one of Hong Kong's busiest tourist districts, in Hong Kong, China, on July 7, 2019. /VCG Photo

Protesters holding umbrellas on Nathan Road in Mong Kok, one of Hong Kong's busiest tourist districts, in Hong Kong, China, on July 7, 2019. /VCG Photo

The economy is a pie. One can slice it evenly or unevenly and different groups of people might enjoy different shares of it, but it is the overall size of the pie that determines how much each individual gets. The growth of the pie means everyone benefits. And the shrinking of it means everyone loses.

This is what the protesters are doing to Hong Kong. Although they seem to be singularly focused on political goals, their actions are decreasing the overall volume of Hong Kong's economy. The protests are hitting the economy on all sides. With the city paralyzed and violent mobs roaming the streets at night, everyone's confidence in the region – from tourists to investors – has been shaken. Protesters are breaking the confidence that Hong Kong has exuded in the past that led it to become a financial hub. With the size of pie decreasing, no one in Hong Kong will escape the consequences – not the rich, not the poor, not the protesters, not the government, none. By driving the city to its edge and exacerbating an already downward spiraling economy, protesters are turning out the well-being of their own community, their families, and their own future to be collateral damage for their actions.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that Hong Kong is on the "verge of a very dangerous situation." It is dangerous indeed. The damage to the city's economic health and its most important economic image is more detrimental to its long-term development. Whatever the goals of the protesters, they cannot just limit their vision to what's in front of them. They need to see a bigger picture and think about the future of their city. If they continue the path they are on, then they will have no one to blame but themselves when the prosperity they enjoy now is no more.

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