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Why stay put? Answers from 3 foreign residents in Hong Kong


HONG KONG – Hong Kong has regained peace and order with a landmark National Security Law enacted over a year ago.

Xinhua recently interviewed three foreign residents. While differing in age, profession and background, they are unanimous that no matter what happened over the past years, including social unrest and COVID-19, Hong Kong's charm has not been diminished and the city is still attractive to dream chasers looking for an opportunity to spread their wings.

Hong Kong, my home

"I will stay here. I am not going anywhere. This is my home," said US businessman Jim Thompson, who has operated a business in Hong Kong for more than 50 years.

Thompson, chairman of logistics company Crown Worldwide Group, set up his company in Japan in 1965. Thirteen years later, he moved the group's headquarters to Hong Kong and has remained committed to the city ever since.

Hong Kong is so much more attractive for many reasons, particularly because it is part of China. And the opportunities in China are just going to be enormous for international companies.

Jim Thompson, US businessman 

"We haven't found any place that's better to operate in than Hong Kong," he said.

Thanks to Hong Kong's extensive business network, Thompson's company is able to expand more easily into the rest of Asia, especially the Chinese mainland.

"Hong Kong is so much more attractive for many reasons, particularly because it is part of China. And the opportunities in China are just going to be enormous for international companies," he said.

Over the last decades, Thompson has witnessed how the city has always survived and thrived.

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"I've seen lots of ups and downs, the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic, the global financial crisis and some political disturbances. But in every case, Hong Kong adapts very quickly to whatever the new issue is, and always comes back and got stronger and stronger each time," he said.

Photo taken on July 8, 2021 shows a view of Tamar Park in Hong Kong. (WU XIAOCHU/XINHUA)

Knowing the place longer and better than many, Thompson is a believer in Hong Kong's future.

Responding to so-called US sanctions on Hong Kong and the latest warning about doing business here, Thompson said such moves are ridiculous. "I think much of the sanctions are done for political reasons. But it has no effect, and it's just a waste of time. And as far as businesses are concerned, it means nothing to us, absolutely nothing."

Cornerstone for prosperity

Foreigners used to come to Hong Kong for a three- to five-year stint but decades later many are still here. Richard Cullen is one of them.

Cullen, 73, is a visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong. He moved here 30 years ago and has since spent most of his time in Hong Kong, apart from brief returns to Australia.

"I originally came like for two years. Here I am about 30 years later, still here," he said.

In the eyes of law professor Richard Cullen, the rule of law is one of the cornerstones of Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, which is now respected and practiced again

During his stay, Cullen has experienced a number of major events in Hong Kong, but none shocked him as much as the 2019 chaos.

"If I look back to 2019, it is the most frightening period in my life on a continuing basis that I have ever experienced in Hong Kong or anyway," he said, recalling the dark time when the rule of law and freedom were in jeopardy. His work and life were also adversely affected.

"We had to end Friday night classes, because the fear was the students would not be able to get home," he said. Eventually, all teaching ceased on campus.

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Nearly two years have passed, Cullen still thinks of those tumultuous days from time to time. But the National Security Law has ended the chaos and violence and people have regained their peaceful lives.

There is no doubt that the National Security Law has put Hong Kong society back on track with long-term, very positive effects, he said.

The law professor disagrees with those who allege freedom and human rights are eroded. "In terms of actual freedom, there is much more now than there was in 2019," he said.

Hong Kong residents celebrate the passage of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in Causeway Bay of Hong Kong, June 30, 2020. (WANG SHEN/HONG KONG)

In the eyes of Cullen, the rule of law is one of the cornerstones of Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, which is now respected and practiced again.

"I will continue to live here. Now that stability and safety have been restored, and the future is positive," he said.

The real Hong Kong

Seven years ago, with a longing for the mysterious East, 26-year-old Stefano Dell'Erba came to China.

Dell'Erba grew up in Italy, but also studied and worked in the United States. "I saw Europe and also I went to the United States. I think life there is a little bit flat, especially if you're young," he said. "I was very curious about Asia and China. So that's why I decided to come here."

"My first impression of Hong Kong was the city is really great. Especially it's great for young people as it's very dynamic," said , 26-year-old Stefano Dell'Erba from Italy. He added  the passion and energy of Hong Kong is particularly intriguing to dreamers

After living in Shenzhen for one year, Dell'Erba came to Hong Kong and immediately fell in love with the international metropolis.

"My first impression of Hong Kong was the city is really great. Especially it's great for young people as it's very dynamic," said Dell'Erba, adding the passion and energy of Hong Kong is particularly intriguing to dreamers. He loves to make new friends from all over the world and comes up with better business ideas.

Dell'Erba now works as a project manager in a small investment firm and part of his job is to look for global investors. "When we invite the investors to come over to Hong Kong, they always have a positive opinion because some of them basically don't expect to see such a development, such a very dynamic and international city," he said.

The stay in Hong Kong has introduced the young Italian to Chinese culture and made him more aware of the West's ignorance, misunderstanding and even misinterpretation of Hong Kong affairs.

"I think in the Western societies or in the Western countries, people don't really have a knowledge or information about how is life in Hong Kong or in China," he said.

Referring to views on the National Security Law, Dell'Erba said every country has a national security law, so why some people are worried about such a law in China's Hong Kong?

In order to show the real Hong Kong to the outside world, Dell'Erba has hosted several shows on the internet, inviting opinion leaders in Hong Kong to talk about a variety of issues, from "yellow" and "blue" political ecology to COVID-19 and the digital renminbi.

Hong Kong has become the place where Dell'Erba has lived for the longest time except his hometown in Italy.

"The work environment in Hong Kong is still great, especially for young people who want to do finance. I like to see myself in Hong Kong for a long period," he said.  

Xinhua reporters Wu Xiaochu, Zhang Yichi, Chen Peiying, Huang Xitian also contributed to the story.