BC Expert: Hong Kong Protestors
Greg Stoller is actively involved in building entrepreneurship and international business programs at Boston College. He is the director for the core M.B.A. business planning course, the Asian International Management Experience Program, and the Asian International Consulting Project and routinely travels to Asia with MBA students who get a first-hand look at businesses there. Stoller is author of the book Strategies in Entrepreneurial Finance with Accompanying Case Studies and business articles detailing the successful practices of U.S. and international firms. He is a reporter, contributor and periodic co-host of the broadcast "Radio Entrepreneurs" and co-creator/host of the nationally aired television show, "The Language of Business." Stoller also regularly works with the press providing commentary and analysis on domestic and international business issues. He speaks, reads and writes fluent Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and French, and basic Cantonese Chinese, Korean and Spanish.
It’s been almost a month since student protestors took to the streets of Hong Kong, demanding more of a say in how their political leaders are elected. Despite this week’s unprecedented televised public debate between protestors and politicians, there’s no sign students will get what they want. And the indifference by Hong Kong’s business community coupled with the inconvenience the protests mean to everyday citizens may soon be working against the movement.
“You have to keep in mind 100 percent of any populace isn’t necessarily going to be in favor of the push for political change, especially when it begins affecting business,” says Greg Stoller, a lecturer at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and expert on the Asian economy. “The residents of Hong Kong are starting to get annoyed. While they are all for people expressing their opinion, exercising their right to free speech, and taking part in a few days of non-violent protests, when it has dragged on as long as it has, people can’t get to work and can’t go about their livelihoods. The vegetable hawkers who work in the market can’t get from point A to point B so they can’t set up their stalls, and business owners are saying enough is enough already.”
At issue is the demand for democratic elections amidst China’s decision to pre-approve a slate of candidates in Hong Kong’s 2017 elections, even though citizens in this former British colony were promised free elections that year. Mainland China has said change in the short term is impossible.
“Beijing doesn’t want to set a precedent in any direction, they don’t want other groups to believe that if you protest loud enough, that they are going to cause a change in policy,” says Stoller, who has visited China more than 40 times since 1991. “The mainland government knows this is only going to be gasoline thrown on a fire for other places in mainland China who will try and do the same thing. For generations, China has always taken the position that they’re not going to be swayed by the court of public opinion and I think this protest is just going to be another statistic in that long line of consistency.”
In the meantime, Hong Kong’s business sector continues its hands off approach to the protests as it tries to rev up the engine that keeps the economy humming.
“For the first time, there seems to be an unfortunate chasm forming between the business people of Hong Kong versus the politically protesting students,” says Stoller, who speaks, reads and writes Mandarin and Cantonese. “I think Hong Kong is struggling to get back to its former self and it seems like business leaders are trying to go on with their affairs as usual because they’ve said nothing and done nothing. From a business perspective, the fact that the violence has abated will hopefully enable Hong Kong to get back to what it has done so well for generations.”
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