Aug 15, 2019 06:13 PM

Paul Chan: Tiding Over Difficult Times Together

Photo: VCGVictoria Harbor, Hong Kong, on May 20. Photo: VCG
Photo: VCGVictoria Harbor, Hong Kong, on May 20. Photo: VCG

What is your vision for Hong Kong’s future? A fair and just society? A stable and prosperous homeland? A liveable, vibrant and diverse city? No matter what your answer is, it could never be achieved by radical protests, violence, rampages as well as series of uncooperative movements.

Under the current complicated, volatile and unconducive circumstances, Hong Kong’s imports and exports are significantly weakened with a drastically slowed down economic growth momentum. We are now entering into a very difficult economic situation. The recent series of violent acts have resulted in a notable drop in revenue in sectors including retail, catering and transportation. The tense pressure in the society has hit all consumer-related sectors to different extents.

In the past two weeks, I appealed to readers on my blog to pay attention to the increasing downside pressure of the domestic economy and the tough economic situation. Recently, the external financial environment has become even more uncertain. Last week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury unreasonably designated China as a currency manipulator. As pointed out in many analyses, the decision of the U.S. could not be justified as it conflicts with the facts, and does not comply with US’ own criteria of “currency manipulators.” In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mentioned in a report last Friday that the yuan’s exchange rate is generally coherent with the economic fundamentals in China over the past year, with a generally stable exchange rate against a basket of currencies.

We have all along been closely monitoring the impact of the China-U.S. conflict over trade, the technology sector and the financial market. We have equipped ourselves for necessary response actions to prevent malicious speculation. Recently, there were more ill-intentioned rumors online regarding the financial markets, and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has taken prompt action to clarify and stop them from spreading.

Last week, after chairing a meeting of the Financial Leaders Forum, I met the media with the secretary for financial services and the treasury, the deputy chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the deputy chief executive officer of the Securities and Futures Commission. During which, I mentioned that the different areas of Hong Kong’s financial system have been functioning smoothly and orderly so far. Risks have been manageable. In fact, Hong Kong’s financial system has experienced various challenges and we have implemented a number of resilience measures and performed stress tests over the past years to strengthen its capacity in withstanding shocks while enhancing the regulations on related institutions and market behavior. We clearly have the experience, ability, determination and strength to maintain Hong Kong’s financial stability. We will stay alert and gear up to continue our monitoring, strengthening and preventive works.

The recent violent disturbances, occupation and damage of public facilities by protesters have already undermined Hong Kong’s international reputation as a safe city. At present, 22 countries have issued travel alerts to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is now seen to be unstable and unsafe to foreign enterprises and travellers, and hence affecting their desire to travel, do business and invest in Hong Kong. Besides, flash mob-style road blockages and obstruction of train services have adversely affected people’s daily lives and plans. Some citizens who need to bring senior citizens for doctor’s visits, or to visit relatives in hospitals are particularly anxious about the disruption.

The radical protests, violent storming, as well as the uncooperative movements have not only taken a heavy toll on the already fragile economy, but also restricted the freedom and flexibility of the public’s commutes. Our usual sense of security on commuting has receded.

Undoubtedly, violence will trigger more violence, leading to social problems that are detrimental to our society and the public. Any concessions to violence will only breed more violence. Being dissatisfied with the government definitely does not imply accommodating, tolerating or even encouraging violent acts.

After all, Hong Kong needs to have a safe and stable environment to resolve internal controversies and difficult situations as well as to address external challenges and to safeguard people’s employment and livelihood. The entire team of the HKSAR Government is striving to explore a way forward with a view to resolving challenges in different areas progressively. I hope everyone can break off with violence for the well-being of Hong Kong and its people. I hope everyone can put aside their disputes for now and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to ride out the difficult times for our homeland, Hong Kong.

Paul Chan Mo-po is the financial secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The Chinese version of this article was originally published (link in Chinese) on Sunday.

This article was originally published here.

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