None of this means Hong Kong will become a dead city. Over time it has lost importance to the overall Chinese economy, but still provides a useful gateway to international finance and a place for affluent mainlanders to find jobs and place their wealth (legal or otherwise). Some influential Western-educated mainland financiers, now working in Hong Kong, have even founded the new Bauhinia Party—named for the flower on the Hong Kong flag—in hopes of gaining a policy voice. (Cynics find it appropriate that their floral symbol is a sterile hybrid.) More and more mainlanders are finding jobs in the city—one cause of past protests—and this seems likely to continue, even as policemen; residents now hear cops speaking Mandarin rather than the local Cantonese. Few foreign companies are likely to abandon the city for other Asian locations as long as profits continue.
But Hong Kong will never again be the city that many citizens and foreigners remember from not so long ago. Beijing is tightening its control and no foreign complaints or sanctions are likely to bring back the old days.
Robert Keatley is a former editor of The Asian Wall Street Journal and the South China Morning Post, both of Hong Kong.