AmCham Hong Kong President Calls on U.S. Companies to Reassess Risks of Operating in Hong Kong

Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (AmCham), called on U.S. companies still operating in Hong Kong to reassess their operations in the city and make a judgment on whether the rewards of their operations are worth the risks they face.

Tara expressed this view in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Hong Kong on Monday (July 19).

Tina Early said companies in Hong Kong are currently in the midst of hostilities between the U.S. and China.

The Biden administration issued a business alert last Friday (July 16) warning U.S. companies of the risks to their business operations in Hong Kong as a result of China’s national security laws that began to be implemented in the city last year.

The alert, issued jointly by the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security, warns U.S. companies still operating in Hong Kong that they are subject to Hong Kong laws, including the Hong Kong version of the national security law, and face the risk of electronic surveillance without a court subpoena, and even the risk of having to submit company and customer data to the Hong Kong government.

At the same time that the four U.S. ministries announced the Hong Kong-related business alert, the U.S. State Department and the Treasury Department announced that the seven deputy directors of the Hong Kong Liaison Office were included in their respective lists of sanctions.

Tina Early said in an interview that Hong Kong’s “business environment is definitely more complex than it has been in the past, and we are definitely in a new normal as far as business is concerned.” “It’s not just this business alert that’s most worrisome, but the continued tit-for-tat between the U.S. and China over Hong Kong,” leaving U.S. companies caught in the middle in a quandary.

In response to the U.S. issuing a business alert for Hong Kong and sanctioning the seven deputy directors of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman slammed the U.S. for smearing Hong Kong’s business environment and interfering in China’s internal affairs for no good reason, which China “firmly opposes and strongly condemns.

In the report, the Associated Press pointed out that Beijing’s promise of 50 years of freedom for Hong Kong, made when Britain handed over sovereignty to China in 1997, has been undermined. The implementation of Hong Kong’s version of the national security law last June has already led to the arrest of more than 100 democracy supporters, including Apple Daily founder Lai Chi-ying, and forced even the pro-democracy Apple Daily itself to cease publication after at least seven employees were arrested and millions of dollars in assets were frozen.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, which represents the interests of U.S. companies operating in Hong Kong, announced last week that it will purchase a new office in order to better deliver on its promises and services.

Tina Early believes the Biden administration’s business alert may affect U.S. companies that have not yet landed in Hong Kong but plan to operate there. But Hong Kong remains an important bridgehead for doing business with mainland China.

Hong Kong is a separate customs territory, and as such should nominally have a separate judiciary. But the recent creation of many issues under national security laws has experts concerned that Hong Kong’s famous “rule of law” is being eroded.

“At the moment, the rule of law is the key to making business really work in the international environment here. Business regulations seem to be very robust right now, and that’s very important to the business community,” Tina Hay noted.

Tina Hay believes that if there is regression or substantial change in business regulations, “that will raise very many concerns.” She hopes Hong Kong will maintain international standards in this area.

“So any regression in this area would make it very difficult for Hong Kong to maintain its position, but we hope that there is a growing understanding and recognition that it is a win-win for businesses to continue to operate here and for Hong Kong to maintain its role as a bridge,” she said.