Hong Kong’s once-proud citizens cringe with embarrassment as the city’s Secretary for Financial Services drops to his knees and begs the Chinese government not to sign agreements with other financial centres to allow cross-border sales of investment funds. It is as if KK Chan is saying: “We are so pitiful and helpless that we need a monopoly and a free lunch as a big favour from you, oh wise and merciful Beijing.” The correct response to news that Mainland investors could gain access to German-listed funds would be the merest glimpse of a shrug as we get on with all the important things in our lives. In the unlikely event that our local financial products experts can’t compete with their sausage-munching counterparts in some place called Frankfurt, they can become cab-drivers or burger-flippers. No biggie.
There have been occasions when Hong Kong officials have made a big public show of pleading with Beijing for gifts and handouts and privileges. These contrived displays have had a dual purpose: to give cocky and uppity Hongkongers the impression that they and their city are worthless and incapable and must rely on charity, and to cast the Central People’s Government in the role of father-like saviour and protector whom we must adore and not upset. (The concessions themselves are just step-by-step reforms to gradually open up Mainland markets; they are designed to benefit the country as a whole and would happen anyway.) But in this case, KK Chan’s groveling does not seem to have some subliminal message. Otherwise he would say we need special treatment because Occupy Central wrecked our fund management industry, or something. Indeed, it would be less lame and humiliating. As it is, this request is just… pathetic.