Hong Kong: Hong Kong has been removed from the annual index of the world’s freest economies because the research center preparing the periodic table said the city is now directly under Beijing’s control.
The announcement is a blow to Hong Kong’s reputation and comes as Beijing ramps up its bid to crush dissent after massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative American think-tank, publishes an annual index of countries and territories rated for economic freedom to see how relevant their laws and regulations are for business.
Over the past 26 years, Hong Kong has topped the table for everyone except for one year – A source of pride for the city government, who has often used the award in their official press releases and investment brochures.
But when the 2021 classification is released later on Thursday, Hong Kong will not emerge because the report’s authors believe the city is no longer sufficiently independent from Beijing to warrant a separate listing.
“The loss of political freedom and independence that Hong Kong has suffered over the past two years has made this city nearly indistinguishable in many respects from other major Chinese commercial centers such as Shanghai and Beijing,” wrote Edwin J. Faulner, founder of the Heritage Foundation. In the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
“Hong Kong’s relations with Beijing are increasingly forming of steel,” said Violner, while the “traditions of English common law, freedom of expression and democracy have been significantly weakened” before their handover.
The Heritage Foundation is one of the major policy think tanks affecting financial conservatives in the United States.
Voelner is also a vocal critic of Beijing and president of the Memorial Foundation for the Victims of Communism.
The pro-Beijing government of Hong Kong has embraced the research center’s league table every year it is published.
In 2019 – When Hong Kong topped the table for the twenty-fifth consecutive year – The government said it demonstrated “the city’s economic resilience, high-quality legal framework, low tolerance for corruption, high degree of government transparency, an effective regulatory framework, and openness to global trade.”
Last year, the city slipped from number one for the first time, and was replaced by rival Singapore, after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong.
Beijing says the law is necessary to restore stability.
But it also changed Hong Kong’s legislative and judicial relationship with the authoritarian mainland.
This has caused some tension within the international business community, especially as Beijing conflicts with a growing list of Western powers.