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JUNE 30, 1997

Features

Hong Kong: the handover

Hong Kong by Guy Searls, Northwest News's foreign correspondent in Hong Kong
Which is going to change more--Hong Kong or China--now that the former British Crown Colony is returning to Chinese sovereignty on Tuesday?
   Most of the questions up to now have indicated fear over what China will do after taking over from the British. Will the Chinese Liberation Army--as hinted in foreign TV coverage--come marching in with bayonets drawn? The answer, to any student of the situation, is "no."
   Hong Kong, as a newly-created Special Administrative Area (SAR), will settle down to doing business as usual, even if a few political bumps crop up along the way. Capitalists do business to make more money, and for Hong Kong capitalists--of whom there are many--politics are rarely allowed to interfere.
   However, it is not unusual for a Hong Kong businessman to have some political clout, even if he is not directly involved in politics. For instance, among the wealthier Hong Kong-based businessmen is Mr. Larry Yung. His company, China International Trust and Investment Company (CITIC), has recently completed a glistening new headquarters office tower with a spectacular view of Hong Kong's harbor.
   While Mr. Yung operates from Hong Kong, his father is up in Beijing where he holds a very important position. He is president of China.
   For many Hong Kong businessmen, a growing lucrative area for investment is just across the border in China. Shenzhen, the largest town there, was just a village a few years back. Today, it is a thriving manufacturing center with sleek skyscrapers and first class hotels.
   But Hong Kong-financed developments are not confined to the border area. They are spreading and can be seen in most parts of China and can also be found in foreign cities throughout Asia.
   At the moment it appears that Hong Kong may influence China much more--at least economically--than China will influence Hong Kong.