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Hong Kong's status as a financial powerhouse is under threat - and the world could suffer

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Hong Kong's survival as a global financial hub can no longer be taken for granted. The extradition battle being fought out on the streets of Wan Chai is inextricably tied to the larger Sino-US struggle for superpower hegemony.

Hong Kong's status as a global financial hub is under threat.Credit:Bloomberg

The more that Beijing chips away at Hong Kong's civil liberties and autonomy, the more certain it is that Washington will strip the enclave of its special status.

Once this line is crossed, the US will cease to recognise the territory as an independent member of the World Trade Organisation. It will cut off access to sensitive technologies. Hong Kong will be subject to the same painful tariffs faced by exporters from mainland China.

Many of the 1,400 US firms operating there will decamp, setting off an exodus towards Singapore. The Hong Kong model as we know it will no longer be viable.

The US has been slow to act as China systematically erodes the "one nation, two systems" model established by Britain and China in 1984. The mood has suddenly changed.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act introduced in the US House and Senate last week - backed by both parties - cocks the trigger on what amounts to a sanctions regime covering trade, finance, and technology.

"If all this rolls out, Hong Kong is going to be just another Chinese city," said one of the drafters.

The text links directly to the Emergency Economic Powers Act and calls for punitive action if Beijing further eviscerates........

© Brisbane Times