Reuters blog archive

from Breakingviews:

Hong Kong tycoons can be part of protest solution

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Hong Kong’s tycoons could be part of ending the standoff with pro-democracy activists. The city’s business leaders have an outsize influence over local politics. Relaxing their grip on special corporate votes could ease divisions over electoral reform as well as tensions over rampant inequality.

Hong Kong’s big businesses have generally resisted electoral reform, in line with China’s desire to keep a firm grip on any increased democratic representation in the former colony. Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying summed up that view on Oct. 20 when he said that free elections would give poorer residents a dominant voice.

Yet as the protests rumble into their fourth week, that approach looks increasingly unsustainable. For Hong Kong’s business leaders, giving up a little now could help avoid a bigger confrontation later.

from Global Investing:

Measuring political risk in emerging markets

(Corrects to say EI Sturdza is UK investment firm, not Swiss)

Commerzbank analyst Simon Quijano-Evans recently analysed credit ratings for emerging market countries and concluded that there is a strong tendency to "under-rate" emerging economies - that is they are generally rated lower than developed market "equals" that have similar profiles of debt, investment or reform. The reason, according to Quijano-Evans, is that ratings assessments tend to be "blurred by political risk which is difficult to quantify and is usually higher in the developing world compared with richer peers.

However there are some efforts to measure political risks, and unfortunately for emerging economies, some of those metrics seem to indicate that such risk is on the rise. Risk consultancy Maplecroft which compiles a civil unrest index (CUI), says street protests, ethnic violence and labour unrest are factors that have increased chances of business disruption in emerging markets by 20 percent over the past three months. Such unrest as in Hong Kong recently, can be sudden, causing headaches for business and denting economic growth, Maplecroft says. Hong Kong where mass pro-democracy protests in the city-state's central business district which shuttered big banks and triggered a 7 percent stock market plunge last month.

from Breakingviews:

Hong Kong weathers Occupy’s financial disruption

By Robyn Mak

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Hong Kong’s economy is coping with pro-democracy protests, now heading into their third week. Some retailers and other businesses have suffered and traffic is bad, but the city’s financial system is undisturbed. A prolonged standoff between protesters and the government matters less to investors than the slowdown in consumption and spending in mainland China. Warnings that the movement would threaten Hong Kong’s financial health look misplaced.

from The Great Debate:

Why Hong Kong showdown could never have morphed into Tiananmen 2.0

rad -- alan chin

As pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong confronted police in the fumes of tear gas, the world looked on in admiration of their spirit and bravery and in fear of a possible crackdown.

Those who dreaded a Tiananmen-like scenario in Hong Kong can now breathe a sigh of relief. The standoff came to a peaceful end. But the protesters failed to achieve their basic goal -- reversing Beijing’s Aug. 31 decision to restrict elections to candidates the Chinese Communist Party approves of. They couldn’t even force the city’s chief executive, C.Y. Leung, to resign.

from Breakingviews:

Occupy misses real threats to Hong Kong’s future

By Robyn Mak

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement misses the real threats to Hong Kong’s future. While tens of thousands of protesters led by students have taken to the streets demanding electoral reform, most of the former British colony's 7.2 million residents have shied away. Universal suffrage deserves public support, but the gradual erosion of rule of law and free speech poses a greater threat to the city's prosperity. It’s unlikely these concerns can unite the region in open confrontation with Beijing.

from Breakingviews:

Hong Kong harmony hits Beijing’s worst fears

By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Protests often start out peaceful, then fizzle out, or descend into chaos. So far, Hong Kong is turning that playbook on its head. Demonstrators whose demands for democratic elections were met with tear gas and batons on Sept. 29 had, by the next day, settled into a kind of happy, harmonious state. For the authorities in Beijing, that’s potentially an even more nerve-jangling state of affairs.

from The Great Debate:

Are ‘Hong Kong people’ still Chinese? Depends on how you define ‘Chinese’

A protester sleeps under an umbrella as she blocks a street outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong

“Hong Kong people! Hong Kong people!” shouted tens of thousands of Occupy Central demonstrators on the streets of downtown Hong Kong as they braved police pepper spray and tear gas this weekend. So simple and self-evident, the slogan gets to the heart of the matter, because beyond the immediate causes of contention are the much larger existential issues of who gets to define just exactly what it means to be part of China, and to be Chinese.

Hong Kong, normally the most civil and efficient of cities, has been swept by an enormous wave of characteristically polite and peaceful protest directed against the Beijing-leaning government’s dilution of long-promised reforms. These would have allowed direct election of the chief executive, under the much touted but perhaps never well understood “One Country; Two Systems” formula.

from Full Focus:

Hong Kong demands democracy

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters block Hong Kong streets and defy volleys of tear gas and police baton charges in one of the biggest political challenges for China since the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago.

from Breakingviews:

Hong Kong shreds hopes for orderly disorder

By Robyn Mak and John Foley

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own. 

Hong Kong’s experiment in orderly disorder is coming unstuck. Thousands of protestors took to the streets on Sept. 29 calling for political reform and universal suffrage, and many still remain a day later. Markets are open, and the financial sector hasn’t taken any direct hits. But what started as a meticulously planned act of civil disobedience now risks spiralling into something more volatile and unpredictable, with damaging long term-implications for the city.

from Ian Bremmer:

Chinese leader’s reforms are bad news for Hong Kong protesters


In 1997, Britain returned Hong Kong to China after some 150 years of colonial rule. In exchange, China agreed to a set of principles: Hong Kong would maintain its capitalist system for half a century, by which point its chief executive and members of the legislature would be elected by universal suffrage. As the thinking went, “one country, two systems” would suffice in the interim; Hong Kong and the Mainland would surely converge on democracy in the half-century to come.

Not so fast. Recently, Beijing has been systematically moving in the other direction. The decision on August 31 to rule out democratic elections for Hong Kong in 2017 was just the latest example. Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s transformational reform agenda is driving this shift — and it does not bode well for Hong Kong.