The Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank based in Washington, released the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom report on Tuesday. China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was ranked second among 180 economies, losing the title of the world's freest economy, which it has kept for 25 consecutive years.
The violent protests that broke out in June last year and led to a deterioration in Hong Kong's public order and the investment environment has played a big role in the drop in ranking.
In various evaluation indicators, Hong Kong's investment freedom score dropped sharply from 90 points in the previous year to 80 points.
The report is probably the biggest irony for radical protesters and the people who incite and condone violence. It proves that their so-called fighting for freedom is doing massive damage to the freedom of Hong Kong.
Since last June, violent rioters conducted a months-long anti-extradition protest in the city. The riots have trampled the rule of law and sabotaged social order. The acts of barbarism include setting fires in the streets, damaging public facilities, looting of shops, attacking civilians with different opinions, setting fire in court, and assaulting police officers and local legislators.
Besides that, people who support the rioters have "turned white to black" by trying to justify the violent acts. The disgraceful behavior not only deprived the general public of a stable environment, but also severely impacted Hong Kong's economy and people's livelihoods.
According to a report released by the Hong Kong government, in the fourth quarter, Hong Kong's GDP fell 2.9 percent from a year ago and the economy dropped 1.2 percent year-on-year in 2019, marking the first annual contraction in the past decade. An overall downward trend is also predicted for this year.
An economic recession will breed many social issues, including fewer jobs and shrinking incomes. The outbreak of the coronavirus has just made things worse. Industries such as tourism, retail and catering, which generate massive employment in Hong Kong, are seeing waves of shutdowns and pay cuts. Now, more Hong Kong residents are realizing the ill-effects of the violent protests.
The latest report shows that Hong Kong's unemployment rate has increased to 3.7 percent, and the total employment rate fell by 2.5 percent year-on-year. Both signify the worst performances since Hong Kong's return to China.
If not for the violent protests, many Hong Kong business owners would have had enough savings to survive the impact of the epidemic in the past two months. As well, Hong Kong would not have more than 25,000 people lose their jobs in that time.
If not for the violent protests, the Hong Kong government would not have needed to use fiscal reserves and risk a record-high fiscal deficit to launch a series of relief measures to help people whose livelihoods were severely impacted by the violence and the riots.
However, both rioters and their supporters have never expressed any regrets. Instead, they make trouble for the local government, which is focusing on controlling the novel coronavirus outbreak and stimulating the slowing economy. Hong Kong residents’ future and welfare are taken hostage as rioters try to use them for their own political gains.
In February, the HKSAR Legislative Council approved an anti-epidemic fund worth 30 billion Hong Kong dollars to fight against the coronavirus. But some legislators, who support the violent rioters, chose to ignore local residents' lives and health and objected to those measures. They repeatedly delay budgets which will provide fund for tens of thousands of infrastructure projects.
Rioters and their supporters have revealed their true colors when Hong Kong is in crisis and when it needs unity and cooperation. Hong Kong police recently arrested 17 people suspected of making home-made bombs and seized 2.6 tons of chemicals believed to be for making explosives. Some rioters are also accused of making bogus bomb scares in order to spread panic in the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) Central Station.
Those black-clad rioters who created massive chaos in Hong Kong last year, are now preparing new plans. There is no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak will be gone sooner or later. However, it does not mean that social order in Hong Kong will be restored and residents can return to a normal life. The precious peaceful way of life can only be restored when Hong Kong society is ready to stand up and say no to violence as a whole.
(Compiled by Ryan Yaoran Yu)