Some Hong Kong Businesses Aren't Sold on Protests
Scuffles and impatience threaten to undermine Hong Kong's protests as business takes a hit.
Any faraway observer of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong could be forgiven for sneering a little bit at the suffering of Prada. On Wednesday, one of the most significant days of the protests, Reuters relayed that the company, which fears the protests will be bad for business, planned to "monitor the situation hour by hour" from Milan and close stores early as necessary.
Wednesday was also the first day we heard reports of Hong Kong's new wait-it-out strategy. Local authorities, seemingly taking direction from Beijing, would avoid engaging with the demonstrators and bank on the protests to eventually lose both momentum and popular support as locals grow tired of the inconvenience.
On Friday, three important things happened. The Umbrella Revolution turned one week old, Prada shares fell 4.6 percent to their lowest point in more than two years, and the protesters were said to have come under assault from pro-Beijing crowds as well as others in the densely packed Mong Kok neighborhood—literally "crowded corner"—who had seen enough.
If China's plan to deal with the demonstrations had been to stay put, it appeared to be working. CNN's consortium of reporters on the ground in Hong Kong spoke to Joe Lee, a 58-year-old maintenance supervisor, who offered this indictment of the demonstrators: "They've been here for nearly a week. They need to clear out. It's ruining our economy, they just need to leave."
Meanwhile, as investors unloaded stock and luxury retailers cited sagging sales, there was an irony to be noted. The Hong Kong protests, unlike so many of their global brethren, are not being waged as a challenge to business. The Pradas and Cartiers have neither been targeted nor defaced as the protesters have been generally characterized by their politeness. And days after swelling, the demonstration appeared to shrink as the rain picked up and Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung's offer for dialogue seemed enough to draw some protesters off the streets.