Majority of US firms concerned about national security law but no plans to relocate, survey finds

Buildings in Admiralty district, Hong Kong. (Photo: Francis Kwan/Unsplash)
Buildings in Admiralty district, Hong Kong. (Photo: Francis Kwan/Unsplash)

More than half of the US companies operating in Hong Kong are “very concerned” or “moderately concerned” about the proposed national security law, a survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) finds.

According to the results of the questionnaire published Wednesday, 53.5% were “very concerned,” while 30.0% were “moderately concerned” about the security legislation.

Despite the apprehension, only 30% of respondents said their companies would consider moving their business operations abroad if the law is passed.

Survey Results on National Security Law & Hong Kong's "Special Status"Hong Kong has been hit by a double-whammy in the…

Posted by AmCham HK on Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A total of 180 firms participated in the survey, responding between June 1 at 12pm and June 2 at 2pm. The business group says the survey is “not intended to be a scientific instrument, but rather a temperature test of members’ sentiment.”

60% said they believed the law would harm their companies’ operations in the city.

“This move will likely cause capital outflows and reduction in foreign investment into HK, which will also cause more job losses for the people of HK,” one respondent wrote.

Some said the lack of clarity about the legislation means it is hard to tell how the law would affect the business environment.

“How could we possibly know yet? But it will keep away some business travelers, if for no other reason than because of the protests,” another comment read.

Top concerns about the passing of the national security law include “ambiguity in the scope and enforcement of the law,” that it could “jeopardize Hong Kong’s status as an international business center,” and “further escalates social tensions which will threaten Hong Kong’s stable business environment.”

Fewer than 50% cited the erosion of the city’s autonomy as a concern.

The results were published the day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam arrived in Beijing to discuss the legislation with the central government’s top security and legal officials.

ALSO READ: Carrie Lam: Claims that national security law will affect Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms are ‘nonsense’

Echoing the words of Beijing authorities, Lam said the law “will only punish a small minority of people who engage in acts and activities that seriously threaten national security.”

But critics of the legislation fear it could be used to suppress political opposition in Hong Kong and erode the long-standing freedoms and autonomy unheard of in mainland China. The law, which ignited a fresh round of protests over the weekend, aims to target secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong.

News that Beijing would bypass Hong Kong’s legislature to impose the tailor-made law has prompted a host of reactions from foreign governments. Last week, US President Donald Trump said his administration will begin the first steps of stripping Hong Kong of its special trade privileges, a move that some say could put billions of dollars worth of trade between Hong Kong and the US at risk.

Respondents of the AmCham survey, however, seem less sure. Almost three-quarters said their companies would adopt a “wait and see” measure regarding the removal of the special status.

“No basis to make any decisions, given no formal policy actions taken to date,” one comment read.


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