Firms may rethink having Hong Kong offices after China security law

A man wearing a face mask looks at a night view of Hong Kong’s business district. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: Companies with headquarters in Hong Kong, a world financial hub, may now rethink having those offices as China begins cracking down on protesters under Beijing’s sweeping new security law, the US commerce secretary said on Wednesday.

“I believe that there’s a good chance that all companies who have Hong Kong as their headquarters for Asia will begin to rethink whether the new rules — the new relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China — whether those rules let Hong Kong be as favourable a place to have headquarters as it used to be,” Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network in an interview.

Hong Kong police arrested nearly 200 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the law, unveiled late Tuesday, that critics say is aimed at snuffing out dissent and pushing China’s freest city toward a more authoritarian path.

The United States has condemned the law and threatened further action after having already moved to eliminate Hong Kong’s special trade status.

Asked about the potential for Beijing to retaliate, Ross said: “We took decisive action and now it’s up to them. But it would be a little strange to retaliate against someone who’s responded in a very measured and mild way as we are (doing) to the gross abuses that they’re doing.”

The US Congress is pushing for tougher action.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for the Trump administration to impose sanctions, and the US Senate has already passed a law to impose mandatory sanctions that must still pass the US House of Representatives and be signed by President Donald Trump.