Family stakes its future on colony's booming economy

Hong Kong handover: Stephen Vines talks to an executive who has opted for life under Peking rule
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The Independent Online
The day after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, May Law, 35, a Hong Kong born Chinese marketing executive with a large American-based company, and the rest of her family, joined the queues outside the Canadian consulate to apply for immigration visas. "Of course we were motivated by all the unrest in China at the time," she says. Seven years on, she feels very differently about leaving Hong Kong.

Last year she got married and this year gave birth to a baby girl. The family are determined to stay in Hong Kong and have sufficient confidence in the future to have invested their savings in the territory. Next week they are moving into a new flat.

The incoming government needs to win the hearts and minds of people like May Law, people with the option of going. What she says is in line with the findings of recent opinion polls, which record a growing confidence in Hong Kong's future.

Canada's ponderous immigration bureaucracy worked to May Law's advantage: "It gave us time to think, and now we see that things seem to have settled down." She observes the new government being put in place and the new order taking shape.

"We know it's not going to be all wonderful and not very democratic but it's something we can live with as long as we're not involved in politics. I can't see the changes affecting our daily lives," she says.

May law can see some benefits. She works for a company likely to be able expand its activities. Her husband, a doctor, looks set to take in new patients from the Chinese mainland.

Not only are they staying but so is their money. "We're taking a very big risk," she says, "because all our money is tied up in property in Hong Kong."

They have thought seriously about hedging their bets but decided to stick with the market they know best and maintain investments they can manage themselves, rather than rely on friends and services overseas.

Their decision to stay has been influenced by economics. "If the economy stays as good as it is, we'll be lucky," she says, "we shouldn't be too greedy to hope for more."

So what is the downside? Like most Hong Kong people, Ms Law is concerned about corruption. "I don't want us to become another Philippines. If we get that kind of reputation, foreign investors will lose confidence." However, she thinks corruption is "something one lives with. I'm certain there's an amount of corruption everywhere, even in England, but society can adjust to it. We Chinese are very adaptable. Things may change in the way business is done but we will adapt and thrive."

It would take unrest on the scale of Hong Kong's 1960s riots to shake Ms Law's confidence in staying put. "If ever I find my friends being jailed and not getting a fair trial, that will really bother me," she says.

Originally she was not too keen on the idea of the colony reverting to Chinese rule. Now she feels differently. "Chinese people being ruled by Chinese people makes more sense than being ruled by the British," she says. "Even though the Chinese have proved not to be so great at government, we should give them a chance because they are of our own kind."

Moreover, she believesHong Kong is parting company with a society on the way down, whereas "we seem to be going with something on the way up".