Hong Kong firms on edge as democracy rally blockade looms

Rain clouds hang over central Hong Kong as activists vow to shut down its financial district in protest at China’s attempt to hobble democratic elections in the city.

HONG KONG (AP) — As activists vow to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district in protest at China’s attempt to hobble democratic elections in the city, businessman Bernard Chan is preparing for the worst.

Chan’s investment company has added backup phone lines, bought extra laptops and stockpiled instant noodles in case its headquarters downtown is caught in the middle of the protest.

Activists have threatened for more than a year to rally 10,000 protesters to freeze the Asian financial center’s central business district to press their demands for full democracy. Chan drew up contingency plans after the chances of such a showdown escalated in recent months.

The former British colony came back under China’s control in 1997 but retains its own legal and financial systems and a high degree of control over its affairs. Beijing has promised to let voters, rather than an elite committee, elect the city’s leader starting in 2017 but democracy groups and authorities are edging closer to confrontation over who can select candidates.

The protest plan has set Hong Kong’s business community on edge. Companies operating in the financial district, where skyscrapers line narrow, winding streets, have scrambled to make sure they’ve got adequate backups in place while trade groups have taken out newspaper ads voicing their objections. Financial analysts have issued reports fretting about possible disruption…

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