Hong Kong has been ranked the world’s freest economy for the 26th year in a row despite growing concerns over Chinese control and clampdowns.
The latest rankings issued by Canada-based Fraser Institute, an independent public policy research and educational organisation, place Hong Kong as the number one destination in the world for economic freedom and ease of doing business.
The index measures the “degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom,” the publishers said in a statement.
It used 42 data points to assess which countries provided the maximum freedom for businesses in terms of regulations, established institutions, investment opportunities, and legal framework.
“The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to enter markets and compete, and security of the person and privately owned property,” it said.
It also took gender representation into consideration and measured the “extent to which women have the same level of economic freedom as men”.
A government spokesperson welcomed the rankings and said the city has been striving to improve its business environment, according to China Daily.
“The HKSAR ( Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China) government will continue to consolidate these strengths and provide a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and to strengthen their competitiveness, thereby enabling the economy to prosper,” the unnamed spokesperson said.
While Hong Kong has, for long, been a financial hub in Asia and internationally, recent years have seen growing Chinese control with a clampdown on media and free speech in general, especially after the controversial National Security Act.
A large number of free speech advocates have faced government crackdown, including Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai who is serving a jail term for “falsely representing” the subletting of just 1% of the office space of his media company headquarters.
Activists have said such charges are meant to silence critical voices and have raised concerns about the worsening human rights situation under the tightened control of Beijing. However, the rankings do not reveal any impact of the political turbulence.
The report does show “a stunning” fall in ratings of 0.28 points to 8.59 for 2020, from 8.87 in 2019.
The think tank, however, said in its report that it was difficult to assess how much impact China’s “economic and political crackdown” or coronavirus had on the rankings.
Meanwhile, China has been ranked 116 out of 165, the same spot as last year.
The next highest-scoring nations are Switzerland, New Zealand, Denmark, Australia, the United States, Estonia, Mauritius and Ireland.