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Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia

The Thaiger

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Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia | The Thaiger

From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.

Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.

Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.

A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.

“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”

And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.

“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.

The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.

China-fuelled boom

While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.

Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.

But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.

There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.

“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.

As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.

“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”

Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.

And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.

“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.

Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.

But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.

“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

PHOTO: newlaunches.sg

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Hong Kong

US Senate gives unanimous approval to Hong Kong rights bill

May Taylor

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US Senate gives unanimous approval to Hong Kong rights bill | The Thaiger

PHOTO: FT.com

In a move that makes clear its displeasure over Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong freedoms, the US Senate has unanimously backed a bill in support of protecting the rights of the Chinese Special Administrative Region.

As the legislation was passed yesterday, Washington threatened to revoke the special status granted to Hong Kong in retaliation at China’s reaction to the ongoing protests in the city. US lawmakers have also banned the sale of materials being used by Hong Kong authorities against protesters, including tear gas and rubber bullets.

Beijing is not expected to take the latest news well, having made clear its “strong indignation” last month when the US House of Representatives passed a similar bill. Both bills are now expected to be combined and brought before Congress, after which they would be presented to the US President Trump for signing.

Both Republicans and Democrats appear united on the move, with Republican Marco Rubio saying approval of the latest bill sends a clear message to Hong Kong citizens.

“Today, the US Senate sent a clear message to Hong Kongers fighting for their long-cherished freedoms: we hear you, we continue to stand with you, and we will not stand idly by as Beijing undermines your autonomy.”

Meanwhile, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says the bill, “makes it clear that the US will stand firmly and unambiguously with the legitimate aspirations of the people of Hong Kong.”

SOURCE: news.rthk.hk

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Hong Kong

“Only China can make decisions on Hong Kong constitution” – Beijing

May Taylor

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“Only China can make decisions on Hong Kong constitution” – Beijing | The Thaiger

Beijing has reacted angrily after a HK court overturned the ban on face masks, popularly used by protesters.

Authorities in China have hit back at the decision by a Hong Kong court to overturn a ban on face masks, insisting that only China can rule on constitutional matters in the territory. AFP reports that such a reaction could fuel further unrest in the territory already unsettled by months of violent protests that show no sign of abating.

Concerns remain among pro-democracy activists at what they see as China’s gradual undermining of the democracy and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” policy in place since the handover from Britain in 1997.

The ban on face masks was brought in last month, with HK chief executive Carrie Lam invoking legislation that had not been used for over 50 years. Activists had been using masks in an attempt to remain anonymous while participating in rallies and often violent protests across the city.

Yesterday, Hong Kong’s high court ruled that the ban on face masks was unconstitutional, a verdict which has rattled Chinese authorities. A parliamentary spokesperson Jian Tiewei says only China had the right to make such a judgment.

“No other institution has the right to make judgements or decisions.”

He added that the court’s finding would have a negative impact on Carrie Lam’s leadership and refused to rule out Beijing retaliating in some way.

With protests and clashes now taking place regularly since June, China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, warns that while Hong Kong authorities attempt to restore order, Beijing will not sit back forever.

“The Hong Kong government is trying very hard to put the situation under control. But if the situation becomes uncontrollable, the central government would certainly not sit on our hands and watch. We have enough resolution and power to end the unrest.”

His statement came as Hong Kong police laid siege to the city’s Polytechnic University, where hundreds of protesters were holed up, using improvised bows and arrows and Molotov cocktails to attack police. Most been arrested, and others managed to escape by abseiling down a bridge to waiting motorbikes. But it’s understood that around 100 protesters still remain on the campus.

SOURCE: france24.com | AFP

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Hong Kong

“Be water” and “Blossom everywhere”: Hong Kong protesters’ attempts to outsmart police

May Taylor

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“Be water” and “Blossom everywhere”: Hong Kong protesters’ attempts to outsmart police | The Thaiger
Photo: thenation.com

As the protests that have brought Hong Kong to a standstill show no signs of ending, demonstrators are employing new tactics in an attempt to overcome the police.

AFP reports that flash-mobs are springing up across different parts of the city since Monday, as 7½ million people attempt to create as much chaos as possible. Shops continue to be ransacked, pro-Beijing businesses vandalised, and public transport severely disrupted.

Anonymous messages on social media provide direction to protesters, such as the one that appeared Wednesday on an internet message board used by pro-democracy activists.

“We must blossom everywhere to divert the police force.”

The police for their part, are employing new ways to put an end to demonstrations and rallies but are being accused of violence and heavy-handedness in their approach.

To fight police efforts, protesters are attempting to create chaos and confusion by blocking traffic in one part of the city, then quickly disappearing and re-emerging in another, a tactic they’re calling, “be water”, after the philosophy of one of Hong Kong’s most famous sons, martial arts star Bruce Lee.

It’s a tactic that has brought the subway system to a halt however, as authorities attempt to prevent activists using it to quickly travel from one protest hot-spot to another. The closure of the transport system has resulted in protesters vandalising the trains.

“Blossom everywhere”, the tactic referred to in Wednesday’s online instruction, involves creating as many diversions in as many different parts of the city as possible, in efforts to overwhelm police.

As part of this, posts on social media ask that people gather in small numbers in their own local areas, without having to move far or rely on public transport.

“Do not go to other districts. Firstly, not familiar. Secondly, no transport.”

Another indication that things are moving up a notch is the fact that since Monday, protests are no longer confined to weekends and evenings, with the “blossom everywhere” disruption taking place three days in a row this week.

On Tuesday, a police spokesperson was quoted as saying Hong Kong was “on the brink of total collapse.”

SOURCE: themalaysianreserve.com

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