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Occupy Central: A Cause for Concern for Construction Professionals Considering Hong Kong?

As the Occupy Central with Peace and Love (or just Occupy Central) movement has recently hit headlines all over the world, it seems obligatory that we should cover it some way or another. It’s not only brought to the world’s attention the political status of Hong Kong, but for some it has raised questions about whether Hong Kong remains a stable place to live and work.

Some international media outlets have presented a picture that Hong Kong had for a time been plunged into anarchy with violence erupting everywhere. If this was true, it would rightly dissuade prospective construction industry professionals and other migrants from considering Hong Kong as a destination for well-paid and interesting construction work.  Thankfully this has not been the case and with the current protests petering out it seems the right time to clarify the situation from as impartial a view as possible.

In simplest terms, Occupy Central is a peaceful civil disobedience movement which was planned in order to help Hong Kong gain universal suffrage – to gain true democracy for election of a new Chief Executive of Hong Kong in 2017. With Beijing enforcing a semi-autonomous voting system (whereby Hong Kong citizens vote only from a pre-approved list of candidates), the subsequent protests and political unrest broke out. The protests originated in the Admiralty district (where the Hong Kong Government buildings are located), but quickly spread to a few other areas such as Wanchai, Central and Causeway Bay. It eventually reached Mong Kok in the Kowloon district. As major roads became blocked by protesters, vehicle access became severely restricted or congested.  Many  construction industry workers have indeed complained about taking longer journeys to work and delivery of materials being delayed on projects around the protest sites or on traffic routes linked to them.  

This is perhaps the “greatest” side effect to the protests – a short term temporary inconvenience. What has been suggested by a lot of sources is that the areas of protests have become violent and dangerous. This is certainly not the case, especially since the protests are aimed specifically to be non-violent. The MTR system has proved to be an excellent and efficient alternative method of travelling to work if your bus or tram route has been disrupted. In fact many people felt they say the most affluent in Hong Kong making rare appearances on the MTR during this time as this proved a better method of getting around town to their chauffeur driven limousine for a while!

Generally speaking, the areas of protest were easily avoided if it was necessary. Protesters have always been cooperative and have always made considerable effort to maintain a clean and inspirational approach to civil disobedience. 

In the longer term, Hong Kong will continue to boom, as will the construction sector where both existing and new construction projects are being progressed unaffected by politics.  The 7 new railway projects are still scheduled up to 2031 as well as various link projects connecting Hong Kong with Mainland China. Re-development projects of certain areas including Kai Tak and Northern New Territories are also still well underway which will create more housing, commercial, recreational and cultural facilities such as WKCD. The appetite of the Hong Kong construction market for construction skills and professionals remains unwavering in light of the protests.

Occupy Central may in the future be seen as a way Hong Kong attempted to define itself as politically distinct from China – and it may or may not succeed – many feel it may not – however the construction of world class engineering projects will without doubt continue to define Hong Kong as a leading destination for industry professionals and visitors from all over the globe. 

Donald Leung
HK Maxim Recruitment
Hong Kong and Asia Region

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