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HKSAR falls in biz climate, safety rank

By GU MENGYAN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2019-12-07 08:10

Amid the escalating unrest, many small businesses have pulled down the shutters as the economy shrinks and tourists stay away. [Photo/China Daily]

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region fell out of the world's top 10 safest cities list and lost its status as the best Chinese city to do business in, amid gloom over prolonged civil unrest.

In its latest annual report released on Friday, the Hong Kong Chinese and Foreign Institute of City Competitiveness removed Hong Kong from the Global Top 10 Safe Cities, a list on which Hong Kong ranked 6th last year, citing a "universally known" reason.

The result deviated from the city's longtime global image. Solicitor Kennedy Wong Yingho, also convener of Safeguard HK-a cross-sector alliance calling for restoring law and order in the city, said he was "not at all surprised" at the new rankings. "How can you expect Hong Kong to be a safe city after dozens of countries have issued travel warnings for this city?" he asked.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong was leapfrogged by Shanghai and Shenzhen, Guangdong province on the ranking list of cities with the best business environment. "In six months of civil unrest, Hong Kong's business environment has been greatly compromised," the report read.

Wong said concerns over Hong Kong's business environment started to grow after Hong Kong International Airport was repeatedly disrupted in August. A number of international conferences, exhibitions and entertainment events were then scrapped out of safety concerns in the midst of violent anti-government protests.

In mid-August, protesters occupied the airport's arrivals hall in a weeklong illegal assembly which later descended into chaos when radicals scuffled with travelers and roughed up Chinese mainland visitors. Thousands of protesters also paralyzed roads and public transport links to the airport.

At the height of the violent demonstrations, Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport-37 kilometers north of Hong Kong's airport-saw a nearly 10 percent month-on-month increase in the number of passenger trips.

China's most competitive

Despite Shenzhen-China's innovation hub-giving Hong Kong a run for its money on the latest Global City Competitiveness Rankings, Hong Kong was still crowned China's most competitive city in 2019, ranking 8th globally.

Apart from Hong Kong and Shenzhen, another seven Chinese cities, all on the mainland, were also included in the top 50. New York took the top spot as the most competitive city in the world, followed by Tokyo and London.

Economist Gui Qiangfang, who led research work for this year's rankings, said Hong Kong's finance, trade, legal and other professional services outperform any other Chinese city and it has been leveraging the advantages of "one country, two systems".

Gui estimated that Hong Kong will recover from a technical recession next year, but worried that the city might lose its first place spot on competitiveness after dominating the list for more than a decade due to pressure from protracted social unrest and Sino-US trade disputes.

To maintain the international community's confidence in Hong Kong, Wong said it is imperative to scale up law enforcement for the sake of public order and safety.

"You at least need to send a clear message to the world-Hong Kong is a safe place for travelers and businesspeople," he added.


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