Wise companies in Hong Kong ought to draw a clear line against violent protests

By Cui Chuangang Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/15 20:43:41


Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

A group of violent protesters in Hong Kong organized a series of illegal rallies and violent protests that have had devastating effects on the local economy and people's well-being.

Radical protesters tarnished the national emblem mounted on an official building, desecrated the national flag, defying national sovereignty and seriously challenging the "one country, two systems" principle. Such violent actions have triggered public anger across China.

Illegal protests and violence are supposed to be condemned by all of society, but it is unfortunate that certain influential multinational companies doing business in Hong Kong are not acting wisely. Some are catering to the radical protesters, others try to hype themselves up, and some even play an insidious role in supporting the violent protests.

Whether it is out of ignorance or purposely done, these companies are doing the wrong thing.

The reason is simple: Any company with a sense of social responsibility should not be associated with violence. Only a stable social environment can help businesses flourish. 

Commercial entities which are eager to promote hype are very short-sighted. They may have pandered to some groups but it will end up costing them business.

Compared to the rioters, the majority of the population seeks peace. Compared to a small fraction of Hong Kong secessionist forces, China's 1.4 billion strong population means a huge market. Some companies fail to see the bigger picture.

Although the majority of companies understand the situation very well, a select number are still willing to take chances by acting in contradictory ways on the Hong Kong question. However, in the internet age, this duplicity can hardly hide itself. Behavior that hurts Chinese people's feelings are always eventually uncovered by netizens, and the companies guilty of such behavior are criticized or boycotted.

Companies are supposed to be rational entities. Their decisions should take both company and society interests into account. 

A responsible company needs to build a coherent image worldwide and protect that image through practical actions. Localization of services should never be used as an excuse to go out of the way to cater to certain radical groups.

A responsible company ought to respect and abide by the local rule of law and international consensus, instead of intentionally turning a blind eye to it or feigning ignorance. 

In the case of Hong Kong, all enterprises should respect Hong Kong's legal system and value the "one country, two systems" principle, rather than practice irrationality.

They should understand that stability underpins business success. Stability is based on abiding by the law. If any illegal incident or violence occurs, it is not only a public security issue. The economic or commercial boom will also be dealt a blow, thus companies' long-term interests will be undermined.

The recent violence in Hong Kong has had a severe impact on the local economy. The tourism, retail and restaurant sectors of Hong Kong have all seen an apparent decline in business. The Hong Kong stock market has also taken a plunge.

Companies should not become accomplices of the rioters. Moreover, they need to see themselves as an important symbol of maintaining a stable and prosperous society. 

They should stand up and draw a clear boundary against violent actions. Some multinational corporations have taken responsible actions, expressing their stances against violence, and their support of safeguarding the rule of law.

It does not mean that all corporations will be forced to take a position or speak out. 

However, it is necessary for all to draw a line against violence with their actions, not to be hijacked or deceived by violence, and not root for it.

This should be their bottom line. Silence or even encouragement of violence will harm and wound the pacifists the most. In this sense, the vast number of consumers on the mainland always have sharp eyes.

The author is an economic commentator. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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