It is a tale of two hong kongs. twelve pro-democracy activists had been a week ago grabbed by chinas coast guard while they attempted a dramatic speedboat escape to taiwan. these were wanting to evade punishment under the difficult national protection law that beijing imposed regarding the area in summer butnowlanguish in detention in mainland the youngest apparently simply 16.

2 days prior to the thwarted escape was revealed, ant group revealed programs in hong kong to introduce just what may become the largest share providing ever sold. the mainland chinese technology business could generate a $300m payday for financial investment bankers whom underwrite the issueand has actually people humming with excitement within the future of asias leading financial centre.

The massive initial general public providing happens to be a center point for those who wish that capitalism can continue to boom whilst municipal liberties are eroded. within interpretation, the new safety law is seen much less marking a-dead end for hong kong but alternatively a fork in its road toward future, counteracting the gloom indicated in recent company surveys.

The destruction of governmental rights in hong kong will not suggest its demise as a financial and monetary center. it should be unlike what it had been, says steve tsang, manager associated with the china institute at soas university in london. it may be the end of hong-kong once we understood it, however it will never be the end of hong-kong.

Chart showing value of total equity marketplace

Former officials and government advisers say beijing is determined to keep hong kongs monetary fires burning up partially given that it requires its fundraising prowess to spearhead a committed plan to develop the more bay area, a zone of some 70m men and women in south china with a yearly gross domestic item currently greater than compared to australia, indonesia or mexico.

Beijing will do every thing it could to aid hong kong fulfil its role as a fundraising center the better bay area and south chinas screen into world, says a former senior chinese official in hong-kong, whom declined to be identified. however it is time that hong-kong worked difficult for mainland chinas advantage, not only for itself.

The national safety law which targets offences vaguely defined as secession, terrorism, subversion and collusion with international forces ended up being enforced to stamp completely size protests for higher freedoms within the area a year ago which sometimes flared into assault.

What the law states spooked numerous international funds and businesses. a study conducted during the early august because of the american chamber of commerce in hong-kong that has at the very least 1,500 members unearthed that 75 % of respondents believed pessimistic about hong kongs company prospects as a whole and 39 per cent in the pipeline to move money, assets or operations out from the town.

A few participants expressed concerns on the brand new laws and regulations affect the stability of governance of this territory, including throughout the economic climate.

But beijing contends that far from destabilising affairs, the brand new legislation is taking necessary calm towards the territory. exactly what asia, hong kong while the worldwide community most require from hong-kong is stability and a return to purchase, claims wang huiyao, president of this center for china and globalisation, a think-tank in beijing.

If law and purchase are maintained, you will see strong interest throughout society to carry on to purchase this area...as people seek out quick growth and quick returns, adds mr wang, who suggests chinas state council, or closet. hong kong could be the monetary centre that will fill this machine. the report on ant group is attracting many us people and retirement resources to enable them to catch up on chinas rise.

Chart showing top performing international stock exchanges

The ant groups in the offing ipo is applying an almost mesmeric pull-on hong kong imaginations. this is certainly partially due to its size. in the event that projections of economic analysts prove correct, the launch could boost above $30bn, possibly surpassing the record $29bn raised by saudi aramco a year ago.

But beyond its dimensions, the listing additionally encapsulates components of beijings eyesight that hong kong should offer the mainland. as tensions escalate involving the us and china, ant group just isn't supplying shares for sale in the united states it is tapping top financial investment finance companies like citigroup, jpmorgan and morgan stanley to pull in all-important united states institutional cash.

Inside respect, the listing is designed to suck in united states resources to help certainly one of beijings strategic aims: the creation of a technology and finance network into the greater bay region with the momentum to be a world leader.

Underlining these types of aspirations, the hong kong stock market has established the hang seng tech index, to trace a number of mainland chinas biggest technology companies. several of these businesses, like alibaba, jd.com and netease, have actually their particular main directories in new york but have actually recently established homecoming secondary directories as us-china tensions have increased. ant group is anticipated is within the technology index.

Such homecomings represent a huge prospective windfall for hong kongs monetary prospects. china renaissance securities, a good investment bank, claims there are 32us-listed chinese organizations with an overall total marketplace capitalisation of almost $200bn that qualify for such directories.

Even in the event only a percentage of those would be to just do it in hong kong throughout the after that couple of years, the influence would, at a minimum, coast within the market, say investors.

Hong-kong became a thriving worldwide economic centre as it had been, and is, a portal to china, claims karine hirn, companion at east capital, an investment fund. we realize there is some anxiety right now but...i really see a chance that [hong-kong] becomes a more dynamic economic centre because it gets a lift from chinas business impact.

She adds that ant groups profile as a fast-growing tech company reflects another hong-kong marketplace trend. whereas many years ago hong-kong lured its fair share of huge but unexciting mainland banks along with other state-owned companies, it today plays host to an increasing quantity of powerful technology businesses.

Bar chart of ipo profits in 2019 ($bn) showing hong-kong stock-exchange is on a roll

The real difference is seen in ants very own current history. when its ipo was mooted 5 years ago, the business was well worth about $50bn as well as its business had been restricted mainly to alipay, an electronic digital repayments solution. now it is considered to be well worth around $300bn and has now already been transformed into a financial grocery store providing above 700m men and women. it works the globes largest online payments platform and cash market investment, and a consumer credit company and an online lender.

Its ipo a joint listing in hong-kong and shanghai, potentially in october will signal an enormous capital infusion into the countrys most innovative businesses while strengthening chinas technology ecosystem and underlining hong kongs condition as a monetary center.

Globally, hong kong had been rated third in terms of equity resources raised by financial centers in the first half of this present year. but with the anticipated boost from ant group, the area may find it self vaulting nearer to its 2019 place whenever its exchange raised even more money from share problems $40.4bn than any of its rivals, based on data published by kpmg.

Away from excitement in economic circles, however, hong kong continues to be full of misgivings. not only is the crackdown on dissent putting community on advantage but problems will also be growing that mainland officials who oversee the territorys affairs will look for to expunge municipal liberties to such an extent that company begins to experience.

Some industry sectors in particular are noticed as vulnerable. folks in news businesses or academics are clearly set for a rough trip that will need to leave, says one prominent company analyst, just who declined is known as. banks and trading houses ought to be ok but you can find a variety of short, medium and lasting dangers, that will hit various organizations in numerous techniques.

Joshua wong, a respected hong-kong pro-democracy campaigner who needs become arrested in coming weeks is clear about how precisely he sees the long term unfolding. the news should be muzzled, the independence associated with judiciary will be eroded, elections are cancelled and cameras will likely to be put in regarding the roads to enforce mass surveillance, claims the 23-year-old.

Charts showing headcount at businesses with 10 or more accredited employees

Kurt tong, just who served as us consul-general in hong kong for 36 months until june 2019, states beijings strategy of controlling governmental resistance without denting company vigor is layered with danger. although inflows of red capital from the mainland in addition to the draw associated with better bay area eyesight is expected to simply help buoy fortunes, questions of governance loom huge, he adds.

A harder question is whether hong-kong will continue to continue to be regionally or globally appropriate and become more than simply an unusually sophisticated element of asia. the key to this is the continued rule of law, states mr tong.

A great deal is driving on how delicately beijing exercises its power. if authorities crack down on reporters which uncover corruption, abuses may proliferate. if expert services companies ought to change a blind attention to some bookkeeping problems, trust may be eroded. if researchers who criticise chinas state-owned businesses find that their particular work visas are terminated, transparency are affected. if an insider tradition ruled by well-connected mainland chinese people provides hold, companies will fear an uneven playing industry.

There's much to lose. hong-kong features more than 160 licensed financial institutions and some 1,600 asset managers that resource most of their cash through the united states, european countries as well as other areas of asia. a sizable foreign exchange market in addition is determined by trusted enforcement of regulations to thrive, as does a bond marketplace that's asias third largest.

Above existing concerns are chill winds emanating from washington. one issue that's getting prominence is whether united states retirement resources must certanly be allowed to invest in chinese ipos.

Early in the day in 2010, president donald trump bought the key us federal government pension investment not to invest in chinese organizations. the input arrived due to the fact federal pension thrift investment board, a company that handles almost $600bn with its thrift savings arrange, ready to move the worldwide part of the investment into an index that features chinese groups.

Charts showing change in certified workers since january 2019

Some united states campaigners declare that such guidance is broadened to club us investors from buying stocks in chinese organizations on united states entity listings that identify them as recognized risks to united states protection. ant group isn't on these types of a listing, though its in the offing purchase of us cash transfer organization moneygram ended up being declined by us authorities in 2018 considering national protection issues.

United states investors would be a good idea to stay away from buying or keeping the equities or financial obligation of chinese companies...that happen sanctioned by the united states including placement on entity list for national protection and human being legal rights abuses, claims roger robinson, president and leader of rwr advisory group, a washington-based analysis and threat management consultancy.

Much more broadly, hong kongs fate could be determined by exactly how heavy-handed beijing officials whom oversee the area become. in private conversations, mainland officials chat of these intentions to look at a light touch in implementing the nationwide security legislation.

But so far, mr tong says, there is certainly small sign of restraint. the question is whether mainland officials can resist the temptation to obtain associated with places like freedom of information and economic legislation which will many influence hong kongs most competitive sectors, he adds.

Considering that the beginning of the demonstrations last year, more than 9,600 individuals have already been arrested and more than 2,000 charged. because the new legislation ended up being enforced, lots of crucial pro-democracy figures happen detained including two lawmakers, lam cheuk-ting and ted hui, detained hours after ant submitted for the ipo.

A raid by police in august on the offices of apple frequent, one of the few hong-kong news outlets that beijing doesn't control, has persuaded many inside domestic and intercontinental news to fear the future. officers confiscated materials after cordoning down sections of the newsroom.

Jimmy lai, the reports creator, was arrested under the brand-new national security legislation with eight various other men, including two of their sons. mark simon, an aide to mr lai and an american citizen, normally desired by authorities it is not in hong-kong. despite their situation, mr lai who was introduced on bail stays a vocal critic of hong-kong authorities. hk is now worse than a third globe town, because of the #policestate taking over the guideline of law, mr lai published on twitter this week.

Everything changed, mr wong says, once beijing imposed the nationwide protection legislation. i'd say that hong-kong was not hong kong more after 11pm on summer 30, he adds, referring to enough time regulations was launched.

His views tend to be echoed, to differing levels, by many one of the 7m inhabitants of this town. although a reaction to the ant ipo suggests that while municipal liberties tend to be under attack, hong kong still has an appetite to flourish economically.