Whatever the view of the chaos in Hong Kong, whether it is a political uprising or illegal riots, it is a disaster for the territory’s economy. And if there’s one place that benefits from Hong Kong’s troubles, it’s the maritime, financial, and commercial center, another self-governing city with another Chinese majority in East Asia: Singapore.
The two places always seem to have a lot in common. Both are commercially friendly. Thanks to less effective regulations and bureaucracy, no corruption, Singapore ranked second and Hong Kong ranked fourth in the World Bank’s list of 190 countries for ease of doing business. Both cities have been proud of their rule of law and low levels of violence on the streets.
Considering all these criteria, the events of the past four months have dented Hong Kong’s reputation. Many businesses have been forced to shut down unexpectedly because of massive protests, or in recent days, the suspension of the majority of the subway system has left many employees and customers at home.
When the protests turned into street battles, tear gas, petrol bombs and vandalism made some areas of the city dangerous. Hong Kong sometimes looks more like anarchy than a rule of law.
There is some evidence that people are shifting cash flow as well as their holiday locations. An August data analysis by Goldman Sachs showed that money was net flowing out of Hong Kong dollar bank accounts and flowing into accounts in Singapore dollars. The bank estimates that up to US $ 4 billion of deposits may have flowed from Hong Kong to Singapore.
Singapore and Hong Kong have long offered conflicting political models. Singapore, to put it bluntly, is a free democracy; Hong Kong is a free tyranny. One side has a freely elected government but the law limits public protests as well as some political debate. On the other side, a special chief is elected by a few hundred officials, a weak legislature and only partially elected by the people, but has a strong tradition of freedom of speech and assembly.