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Over 80% of Japanese firms in Hong Kong concerned about security law: survey

Hong Kong's Legislative Council Complex and Central Government Offices are seen in this file photo taken on September 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Shizuya Fukuoka)

TOKYO -- Some 81.4% of Japanese firms operating in Hong Kong are concerned about the effects of a new security law passed by Beijing and that recently went into effect in the territory, a survey has shown.

The survey was carried out by bodies including the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)'s Hong Kong office. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes many Japanese firms are now worried about operating in Hong Kong, and will continue to request that the Chinese government prevent any hindrance to business activities. The Japanese Foreign Ministry also plans to provide consultation and other support for those Japanese companies.

According to the survey, 48.7% of responding firms said they "are concerned," while 32.7% said they "are very concerned" about the effect of the security law in Hong Kong. A total of 13.7% of respondents chose either "are not that concerned" or "not concerned at all."

Asked what the companies were worried about while multiple answers were allowed, 70.5% chose "concerns about information restrictions," followed by "concerns that Hong Kong's rule of law and judicial independence will be eroded" at 62.4%, "may cause the United States to impose further economic sanctions and the deterioration of U.S.-China relations" at 61.5%, and "may influence the position of Hong Kong as a global financial center" at 59.5%. Answers like "the application standard of the national security law is not clear" and "concerns about a brain drain which could lead to difficulties in securing good personnel" also stood out.

To a question asking companies their policy on Hong Kong-based activities in response to factors such as the national security law, the coronavirus pandemic and souring U.S.-China relations, 9.6% of responding firms said they plan to "downscale" their local operations, while 3.6% said they plan to "review management base functions" and 1.3% said they are planning to withdraw from Hong Kong entirely. A total of 22.2% of the respondents said they may consider taking such measures in the future. Meanwhile, 35.1% said they do not plan on making changes in their corporate activities. Some firms suggested mainland China and Japan, as well as Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries, as possible relocation destinations.

A senior Foreign Ministry official pointed out, "The collusion with foreign forces which the national security law stipulates as a crime covers a wide range of activities, and the (Chinese) central government can decide what does and does not qualify." The source added, "We would like to provide consultations as well as answer questions in Tokyo and Hong Kong, where the headquarters and other branches of Japanese companies are based."

The survey was carried out between July 2 and July 8 on 598 Japanese firms in Hong Kong -- in various industries including trade, finance and transport -- and 304 companies responded.

(Japanese original by Ryuko Tadokoro, Political News Department)

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