Dashing for the Door Due to Dealing in Data or Singapore Sling
The recent passage of the National Security Law for Hong Kong has raised all kinds of quandaries for high-technology and other companies, especially those that deal in data. This is so because the new law makes it easier for government authorities to access data, restrict the kinds of content that are published, and control the transmission of data. In the event of noncompliance with (vague and likely fluid) regulations, firms risk significant fines, imprisonment, or other sanctions. There has been a mild reaction by big firms such as Apple, Facebook, and Google, but they are not located in Hong Kong per se and their longer-term plans are unclear. Businesses actually located in Hong Kong face a serious quandary.
If they stay, they may have to significantly change their operations and/or may lose customers that fret about the security of their intellectual property or corporate and customer data. If they go, they lose proximity to the huge mainland China market and access to the agglomeration of firms in Hong Kong and incentives given by the mainland and Hong Kong governments to tech firms. Many firms will opt to move some or all of their operations to Singapore. After all, Singapore provides easy access to Southeast and South Asia and much of Northeast Asia, offers a respected legal and regulatory environment and wide use of English; and is permeated with a large number of multinational corporations. Nonetheless, many firms will remain due to the allure of China, the Greater Bay Area, or the fact they are “Chinese” firms. Yet, given the fact that there is no possibility that the provisions of the national security law will be loosened and, indeed, that additional data strictures are probable, it is hard not to imagine the future will witness an even greater sling to Singapore.