When you look to launch a business in APAC the key question is which country to set up in. There are many emerging countries offering highly skilled, low cost, workforces who will become new centres to start your business in when they can compete for ease, compliance, and transparency.
So, for now, the battle remains between Hong Kong and Singapore, both English Speaking, both low tax and easy to set up in with strong reputations for financial transparency, clear legislation, and compliance.
Some choose Hong Kong as their launchpad into mainland China which is notoriously difficult to set up in. In recent times, it can be argued that Hong Kong started benefiting from Singapore's extremely tight labour market. Companies switch to Hong Kong because they could find the talent they needed in Singapore.
Well, Covid-19 has put an end to that with the Singapore labour market now much looser as employers have downsized, with talent more available as a result.
In addition, Hong Kong now has new security laws allowing closed door trials, suspects being tried in mainland China and a security agency able to operate without restraints.
You can't disagree with China, you can't campaign for democracy, let alone independence, you can't criticize the Chinese Government. You can be wire tapped, spied upon, and arrested for having an opinion that differs from that of the Chinese Government.
Freedom of speech is therefore severely undermined let alone any form of democracy.
For Hong Kongers this must be very frightening if you happen to have a view that differs from the Government. For ex-pats it may be different but how will you feel living in a city, working with people who are frightened to have an opinion. Who could disappear? Ex-pats are guests in the countries they live in so rightly have no say. But how comfortable can you be? The atmosphere has changed.
For international companies looking to set up in APAC, the choice has just become a lot clearer. All those statements you have about how you cherish your people and they are the centre of what you do. Will that work in Hong Kong now?
It does in Singapore where freedom of speech is accepted, there is democracy and now a willing, available, and recruitable talent pool.
The law is wide-ranging, making inciting hatred of China's central government and Hong Kong's regional government offences. It also allows for closed-door trials, wire-tapping of suspects and the potential for suspects to be tried on the Chinese mainland.