Hong Kong leader says economy taking a hit from protests

HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong’s economy is taking a beating from months of increasingly violent protests, the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said yesterday.

Lam, addressing reporters after a long weekend of more turmoil, said tourism arrivals were down by half and that hotels and retailers were suffering.

Hong Kong’s third quarter economic data will definitely be “very bad”, Lam said.

Lam said she did not have the data with her.

But empty streets and tourist attractions are evidence of the fallout from the massive protests that began over proposed legislation. Lam eventually dropped the legislation.

A man walks alone on a normally busy road near the Legislative Council after protests continue against the extradition bill in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP

Initially, the protests caused little damage and were confined to an area near Hong Kong government offices.

But they’ve since spread to many parts of the former British colony.

The demonstrations have become increa-singly violent, with protesters targetting shops and banks.

The city’s airport has been periodically besieged by protesters, and some train and subway lines and shopping malls have suffered significant disruptions from the demonstrations. So far, Hong Kong’s stock exchange has kept steady.

The benchmark Hang Seng index gained 0.5 per cent yesterday.

Prices have been supported by ample demand since shares listed in Hong Kong are perceived as being relatively cheap, said veteran investment manager Francis Lun.

The city’s monetary regulators said Hong Kong has ample reserves to weather bouts of hard times. But tourism and retailing are languishing, and some investors are shifting money out of the city, Lun said.

Analysts said the political turmoil could undermine Hong Kong’s status as a world financial hub. “Unless it stops soon…it’s really Hong Kong’s survival at stake,” he told The Associated Press.

Protesters are demanding Lam’s resignation even after she withdrew legislation that provoked the latest rounds of turmoil. They also want investigations into the handling of the protests by police.