The perception of the impact from the National Security Law (NSL) imposed on Hong Kong will vary from sector to sector. It has been immediate on political activists and the large segment of the population that was involved in mass protests for almost a year and a half. Disbanding of political groups that will likely be targeted immediately, preparations for departure from the Special Administrative Region (SAR), and a literal overnight disappearance of visible signs of individual activism show that the Hongkongers have taken the full measure of what the law brings: an alignment with PRC political control practices.
But the many expatriates who have made Hong Kong their permanent or temporary home may see the situation differently. The business community, academics, journalists and lawyers had become accustomed to a Hongkongese extraterritoriality, safeguarded by the Basic Law until 2047, according to an international treaty, as well as by China's economic interest. Shreds of this situation remain, since Hong Kong's financial centre remains the first point of exit for Chinese capital. Umbrella companies, initially intended to circumvent US bans on financial transactions with China, have become shell companies, acting as the first layer concealing the origin of Chinese investments abroad. The English language media and academic community may believe they will be spared the full extent of the law, though one can safely assume self-censorship will inevitably increase.
France has a typical dilemma: Hong Kong has long been an attractive location for French banks and insurance companies, which have often conducted their Chinese operations from Hong Kong. This includes many luxury and spirits companies, whose products sold in China are typically imported from Hong Kong, but also culture, media and social sciences, with journalists based in Hong Kong, a research centre on China, a China-focused journal (under various names since the late 1970s), a large Alliance Française, the French International School and various festivals. Of course, the coronavirus has slowed down the pace of these activities, and perhaps our cultural relations have not been excessively audacious recently. The last "university" conference mentioned on the French Consulate’s official website dates back to October 2019 - Dominique de Villepin had then celebrated Napoleon and his "legitimacy by deeds" - an expression that President Xi would have approved if he had heard of it. In addition, German tourists are now warned by their government of the possible hazards from the National Security Law. [...]