Empty apartments and plummeting rents in the world’s most expensive housing market: How the exodus out of Hong Kong could change its real-estate scene in 2021

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China’s new national security law sparked an exodus from Hong Kong.

For years, Hong Kong has been notorious for its astronomical real-estate prices. In 2020, it was named the world’s priciest housing market for the 10th year in a row.

But 2021 could be a year of major change for the city’s real-estate market. Hong Kong residents have been flocking to the United Kingdom since China passed a controversial new national security law last summer. In January, a new UK visa scheme made it even easier for Hong Kongers to move there. The British government said it expects more than 300,000 Hong Kongers to move to the UK in the next five years under the new scheme.

In their wake, Hong Kong’s infamously high rents could drop 10% and vacancy rates could hit an 18-year high, bringing a major shake-up to Hong Kong’s real-estate market, according to the South China Morning Post, who cited a new report from Bloomberg Intelligence.

An exodus from one of the world’s priciest cities

Hong Kong’s high cost of living and housing inequality are well documented. While the wealthy drop hundreds of millions on mansions and build “Versailles-like” villas, many residents can only afford to live in tiny “coffin homes.”

Even the COVID-19 pandemic and months of social unrest didn’t make have too much of an impact on Hong Kong’s prices in 2020. Rents stayed high last year and home prices dropped only 4% between May 2019 and October 2020, according to Reuters.

'Vibrant Hong Kong' by @leemumford8 (UK)
Hong Kong has long been the world’s priciest city for housing, but things could change in 2021.

But 2021 could be a different story. After China passed a national security law last year that threatened life imprisonment for pro-democracy protesters, the UK saw record numbers of Hong Kongers applying for British National (Overseas) passports, known as BN(O)s, which allow them to live in the UK but don’t automatically grant them the right to work.

The British government said it issued about 200,000 such passports to Hong Kongers in the first 10 months of the year at a rate of about five passports every minute.

In January, the UK made it it even easier for Hong Kongers to live and work there, launching a new visa scheme for BN(O) holders to live and work in Britain and apply for citizenship after six years, according to a government statement. They can apply for the visas online from their homes in Hong Kong.

In total, roughly three million Hong Kong residents are eligible to apply for BN(Os) and move to the UK, according to a British government study.

China denounced the UK government’s recent move and said it would no longer recognize BN(O)s as valid travel documents.

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Wealthy Hong Kongers are snapping up luxury real estate in London.

An emigration boom

The influx of Hong Kongers to the UK over the past year has resulted in a surge in demand for luxury real estate in London, local agents told Insider’s Bill Bostock last summer.

In 2020, London homes that sold for 10 million pounds (about $14 million) or higher were “dominated” by buyers from Hong Kong and China, luxury real-estate agency Beauchamp Estates said in a January report provided to Insider.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, could have 66,683 homes sitting empty in 2021, up from 52,370 last year, according to the Bloomberg report.

“This is the biggest emigration boom in Hong Kong’s history,” Andrew Lo, a Hong Hong emigration consultant, told Nikkei Asia last month. “People from different levels of the society, aged from 18 to 80, are all talking about emigration.”

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A Hong Kong billionaire paid $276 million for London’s most expensive home last year. Now, he plans to spend another $277 million renovating it.

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The 62,000-square-foot mansion at 2-8A Rutland Gate overlooks London’s Hyde Park.

Last year, Hong Kong billionaire Cheung Chung Kiu obliterated London’s real-estate record by paying roughly $276 million for a 45-room mansion overlooking Hyde Park.

Now, he reportedly plans to spend roughly that same amount to renovate it.

Cheung has submitted plans to the Westminster City Council for an extensive renovation of the 62,000-square-foot mansion at 2-8A Rutland Gate in Knightsbridge. Per a website that shares information on the renovation, the house is “heavily dilapidated” and requires “extensive refurbishment prior to occupation.”

Experts told the Sunday Times that Cheung’s proposed renovations could cost as much as 200 British pounds, or about $276 million – which is slightly higher than the price he paid for the home last year via his private family office. A spokesperson for the renovation project declined to comment for this story.

Peter Wetherell, chairman of the Wetherell real-estate agency in Mayfair, told Insider that after its renovation, 2-8A Rutland Gate could be worth “anything from £310 million to over £500 million, either way the most valuable private home in London.”

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A view of 2-8 Rutland Gate in 2015.

Cheung, a Hong Kong real-estate investor whose net worth is estimated at more than $1 billion, bought the home from the estate of Saudi Arabia’s late crown prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz. 2-8A Rutland Gate was originally four homes before being combined into one massive building with 45 rooms. The sprawling residence overlooks Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, an upscale neighborhood in central London. It was once listed for £300 million.

When Cheung bought the property in January 2020, he had not yet decided whether he would live in the mansion himself or turn the building into apartments, his spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal at the time. But according to the Rutland Gate renovation website, the property is now intended to be the new owners’ family home in London.

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A reception room at 2-8 Rutland Gate.

The proposals for the home include altering, repairing, and demolishing parts of the building’s façade, according to the website. The owner also wants to change the internal layouts, demolish and remodel the fourth and fifth levels, excavate the basement, and add nearly 11 feet to the building’s overall height.

Pending approval from the city council, construction will start in the fourth quarter of 2021 and the family will move in in early 2025. A spokesperson for Cheung’s company did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.

When it comes to Cheung’s personal and family life, he’s known for staying under-the-radar, according to Bloomberg. His real-estate purchases, on the other hand, often make headlines.

In 2015, he spent $656 million on a piece of land in Hong Kong’s exclusive Peak neighborhood. And in 2017, his company, CC Land Holdings, bought the Leadenhall Building, a 740-foot skyscraper in central London known as “the Cheesegrater.”

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A bathroom at 2-8 Rutland Gate.

Cheung isn’t the only Hong Konger who’s been snapping up property in London lately. As Bill Bostock reported for Insider, Hong Kong residents have been rushing to snap up luxury real-estate in the UK capital since China imposed a new national-security law on Hong Kong last summer.

Once a rarity, homes priced at £100 million ($139 million) or higher are becoming more and more common in London, creating a new “giga-prime market for billionaire buyers,” according to Wetherell. About 20 homes in central London that are built or in development are currently valued at around £100 million, he said.

“Billionaires like owning trophy homes in London because it is good for their image,” Wetherell said in a recent report from his agency. “… And they also like London because each decade property prices go up, so the value of their property assets increase.”

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Humanoid robot Sophia has moved into the art world with a music project and an NFT sale, which reached almost $700,000

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Sophia the robot working on a painting.

  • Sophia, a humanoid robot made by Hanson Robotics, is reportedly working on a music project.
  • The robot last month sold a piece of art as an NFT for $688,888.
  • “We’re so excited about Sophia’s career as an artist,” David Hanson, chief executive, told The AP.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sophia, a humanoid robot, is reportedly getting started on a music career after selling an NFT for $688,888 last month.

“We’re so excited about Sophia’s career as an artist,” David Hanson, chief executive at Hanson Robots, told The Associated Press.

The robot has often made headlines. Earlier this year, its designers told Reuters they were readying it for mass production during the pandemic. It’s also attracted detractors, including an AI researcher who called its technology a “scam.” Last month, Sophia helped create a piece of digital art that sold as a non-fungible token for $688,888, per the AP.

Sophia the Robot Hong Kong March 2021
Sophia, a humanoid robot made by Hanson Robotics.

“I hope the people like my work, and the humans and I can collaborate in new and exciting ways going forward,” Sophia told Reuters.

Here’s how the robot described her artistic process: “We use transformer network engines in my art and other kinds of computational creativity. My algorithms output unique patterns that never existed in the world before. So I think the machines can be creative.”

The robot’s “Sophia Pop” music project is next, Hanson said. The robot will “collaborate” with musicians, helping create both music and lyrics for the project.

Sophia’s music skills have been on display before. In 2018, the robot sang a duet with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” Reviews were mixed.

Based in Hong Kong, Hanson Robotics had been iterating on its Sophia design since introducing it in 2016. The robot has popped up at conferences, broken hearts, and talked to reporters, including several interviews with Insider.

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HSBC has closed its main office in Hong Kong after an outbreak of COVID-19 at a gym

A worker wearing PPE guards the entrance of HSBC bank main Hong Kong office after it was closed until further notice after three people tested positive for Covid-19 amid a recent wave of infections among the citys business and expatriate community in Hong Kong on March 17, 2021.
A worker wearing PPE guards the entrance of HSBC bank main Hong Kong office after it was closed until further notice after three people tested positive for Covid-19 amid a recent wave of infections among the city’s business and expatriate community in Hong Kong on March 17, 2021.

  • HSBC has temporarily shut its main Hong Kong office after three workers tested positive for COVID-19.
  • There has been a wave of infections in the city following an outbreak at a local gym.
  • In an internal memo seen by Bloomberg, HSBC said the bank can reopen when staff have been tested.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

HSBC closed its main office in Hong Kong until further notice on Tuesday after three people working there tested positive for COVID-19.

The region’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) published a formal notice asking people who spent more than two hours in the building between March 3 and 16 to be tested at a government-approved center by March 19, according to an internal memo HSBC sent to staff on Wednesday seen by Bloomberg.

The new infections followed a COVID-19 outbreak last Thursday at a gym in Sai Ying Pun, which has spread to the region’s financial district.

The CHP said Tuesday it was investigating 18 additional confirmed infections of the virus, taking the total number of cases in Hong Kong to date to 11,340.

The CHP also extended the current social distancing measures until March 31.

“It is our understanding that HMB can return to normal business when virus testing of colleagues and deep cleaning of the facility are complete,” HSBC said in the memo. “The exact timing is yet to be confirmed.”

Around 30,000 HSBC employees now have no access to the lender’s flagship office, located at 1 Queen’s Road Central, in the center of Hong Kong’s business district.

Guards wearing masks, face shields and protective clothing were standing in front of the building’s entrances and a poster stuck on the door told customers to visit another HSBC branch in the local area, Bloomberg reported.

Insider approached HSBC for comment but did not immediately receive a reply.

A spokeswoman from the bank told Bloomberg that HSBC was following advice from health authorities and taking the necessary steps so the building can reopen when it’s safe.

“For banking services, we have well-developed contingency measures that ensure our services and critical processes continue to be maintained,” she said.

Hong Kong, with a population of 7.5 million, has kept coronavirus cases low thanks to strict contact tracing, testing and quarantine measures. There have been 203 deaths in the city, according to the CHP data.

With a total of 292 cases between March 2 to March 15, the latest outbreak is the second largest since a surge in November.

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US sanctions 24 Hong Kong and Chinese officials ahead of a high-level meeting with Chinese diplomats

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Thousands take part in a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on June 4, 2020.

  • Washington has sanctioned 24 officials over Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on Hong Kong.
  • This move comes as US Sec. of State Antony Blinken prepares to meet top Chinese diplomats in Alaska.
  • Those sanctioned include senior members of the Chinese parliament and Hong Kong police officials.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US is expressing its displeasure over Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong by sanctioning 24 officials from Hong Kong and China, a move that comes just before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet with top Chinese diplomats in Alaska.

According to a CNN report, the sanctions were introduced by the US under the auspices of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was passed last year after Beijing ratified a new, more restrictive national security law in Hong Kong.

The security law contains a broad ban on subverting China’s political power over Hong Kong and colluding with foreign forces.

The US sanctions bar those on the list and their families from traveling to the US. Furthermore, being sanctioned under the HKAA also comes with financial penalties, including restrictions on banking and loans with US financial institutions, and limits dealings the individual can have with US financial or property entities.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam was previously sanctioned under the HKAA. Lam then complained that the sanctions had forced her to stockpile cash as banks had cut her off and refused to do business with her.

Those sanctioned included Wang Chen, a member of the 25-man Politburo, China’s top political authority, and Tam Yiu-chung, a Hong Kong official who helped draft the national security law, according to CNN.

Wang had previously called for Hong Kong to be governed by leaders who offer “sincere support for the motherland to resume its sovereignty.”

The US made the announcement during a joint visit by Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea.

Blinken said in a statement that the sanctions had been put in place in response to Beijing’s new crackdown on Hong Kong’s democratic processes, which restrict the right of Hong Kong’s people to run for election to the city’s legislative council.

Blinken said as well that the sanctions underscore “our deep concern with the National People’s Congress March 11 decision to unilaterally undermine Hong Kong’s electoral system.”

“A stable, prosperous Hong Kong that respects human rights, freedoms, and political pluralism serves the interests of Hong Kong, mainland China, and the broader international community,” he said.

“The United States stands united with our allies and partners in speaking out for the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong, and we will respond when the PRC fails to meet its obligations,” he added.

AP reported that Blinken and Austin also expressed concern about human rights violations in Xinjiang and China’s increased activity and clear intentions to take control of the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan are scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the foreign affairs chief of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi, in Anchorage, Alaska, this week.

While Beijing has not yet reacted to these new sanctions, CNN indicated that Beijing could respond to Washington’s more forceful stance on Hong Kong by calling off the meeting in Alaska.

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Goldman Sachs creates SPAC team in Hong Kong amid surging Asian interest in blank-check companies

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Goldman Sachs has created a SPAC team in Hong Kong dedicated to handling the surge in blank-check deals that have emerged in the Asian region.

The strategic team was set up last year but was not made public, according to Reuters. SPACs – short for special purpose acquisition company – gained traction in Asia moving in step with the frenzy in the United States although with less volume.

Raghav Maliah, the global vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs’ investment banking division, leads the team alongside Vikram Chavali and Edward Byun, Reuters reported.

SPACs, which are shell companies seeking to merge with private companies with the intention of taking them public, have since taken off given. Proponents cite their simplicity and lower cost.

Regulators however have publicly expressed caution over the recent SPAC mania. On Thursday, acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee said that SPAC returns don’t warrant the “hype” they’re getting. The agency also released an investor alert that specifically warned of the risks involved with celebrity-backed SPACs.

SPACs have been around for more than a decade but have since recently boomed. In 2019, a total of 59 SPACs raised $13.6 billion in the US, according to SPAC Analytics. The figure quadrupled to 248 in 2020 and raised $83.3 billion. But in the third month of 2021 alone, data already show 246 SPACs that raised $76.7 billion, comprising 75% of initial public offerings.

Meanwhile, in Asia, there has been $2.64 billion worth of SPAC deals in 2021 – already exceeding the $2.46 billion for the entire 2020, according to Dealogic data cited by Reuters.

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Facebook killed off its third US-Hong Kong undersea internet cable project in 6 months, citing US political pressure

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Facebook killed its proposal for an internet cable linking the US with Taiwan and Hong Kong.
  • Facebook said it withdrew its FCC application because of US government concerns about links with Hong Kong.
  • This is the third project linking the US and Hong Kong that Facebook has withdrawn in six months.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook has given up on a project to lay more than 8,000 miles of fiber-optic cable along the seabed to link California with Hong Kong.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that Facebook was abandoning the plan, known as the Hong Kong-Americas (HKA) project.

A Facebook spokesperson told the Journal the tech giant was withdrawing from the project because of political pressure from the US government.

Facebook had withdrawn an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “due to ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communications links between the United States and Hong Kong,” the spokesperson said.

“We look forward to working with all the parties to reconfigure the system to meet the concerns of the US government,” they added – though they did not elaborate on what reconfiguring the project might involve.

The HKA project was originally proposed in 2018 by a consortium made up of Facebook and several Chinese companies including China Telecom. The plan was for the fiber-optic cable to link up two sites in California with a site in Hong Kong and a site in Taiwan.

This is the third time in six months Facebook has withdrawn a proposal for an undersea cable linking the US with China.

A proposed joint Facebook-Google undersea cable called the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) was withdrawn in September 2020 due to national security concerns from the Trump administration.

Facebook also withdrew a proposal with Amazon to link San Francisco with Hong Kong – called the Bay to Bay Express Cable – in September 2020.

These withdrawals came after a Department of Justice committee made a recommendation to the FCC against a direct link to Hong Kong, citing Beijing’s sweeping crackdowns on the region.

In August last year, the Trump administration also drew up broad plans to wall off the US from the Chinese internet, with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming undersea cables were a potential point of entry for Chinese state espionage.

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47 influential democracy activists charged in Hong Kong in China’s biggest crackdown yet under controversial new law

Benny Tai
Pro-Democracy Activist, Benny Tai, Arrives at Ma On Shan Police Station, to report to police in Hong Kong, Sunday, Feb 28, 2021.

  • Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were charged with a “conspiracy to commit subversion.”
  • China used its new law that allows it to set up a formal police presence, which it has used to round up activists.
  • Many of the movement’s major figures were charged.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, including some of the movement’s major figures, were charged as part of China’s biggest crackdown yet under its new controversial security law.

Hong Kong police said they had charged the 47 individuals with a single count of “conspiracy to commit subversion.”

They said the group was made up of 39 men and 8 women, aged between 23 and 64, and that they will appear in court on Monday.

They were arrested in a dawn raid in January, accused of organizing and participating in an unofficial primary election last year to find candidates for a legislative council election, Reuters reported.

Mike Lam King-nam
Mike Lam King-nam, who participated in the pro-democracy primary elections, gives a hug to his wife ahead of reporting the Ma On Shan Police Station on February 28, 2021 in Hong Kong.

Reuters reported that those arrested include leading young activists, including Lester Shum, Joshua Wong, and Owen Chow.

 Major figures like Leung Kwok-hung, Eddie Chu, and Alvin Yeung were also arrested, according to Reuters, as was the legal figure and activist Benny Tai.

Supporters gathered outside police stations while they arrived, Reuters reported.

Sam Cheung, a 27-year-old who was among those charged, told reporters before he went into the station, “Hong Kongers have a really tough time these days,” according to Reuters.

He added: “I hope everyone won’t give up on Hong Kong,” he said, saying he hopes people “fight on.”

Beijing imposed the law in June 2020 that allows China to set up a formal police presence in Hong Kong.

The law increases the risk for people who protest and speak out against China and allows law enforcement to increase the detention of people who criticize the government.

An international backlash greeted it, and experts say that it fundamentally changes Hong Kong, ending the democratic freedoms that have been in place in the semi-autonomous city for decades. Many democracy activists have fled the city since the law was introduced.

The maximum penalty for each crime under the law is life in prison.

The news that the law was going to be introduced sparked new rounds of protests in Hong Kong, having already taken over the city to fight China’s proposed bill allowing Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China, as well as opposing police brutality.

But the law was still introduced.

In 2020, it was used to arrest Jimmy Lai, a prominent pro-democracy figure and owner of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper.

The European Union Office in Hong Kong called for the immediate release of those arrested, Reuters reported.

It said: “The nature of these charges makes clear that legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong.”

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Because of its colonial past, the UK has a duty to help residents of Hong Kong

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Thousands take part in a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong on June 4, 2020.

  •  Many of China’s oppressive policies in Hong Kong are facilitated by laws introduced by Britain.
  • The British government has failed to acknowledge the role its colonial legacy has played in the persecution of Hongkongers today.
  • A new visa scheme giving Hongkongers a path to UK citizenship is a good start – but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
  • Jason Reed is the UK liaison at Young Voices.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In 2019, the government of Hong Kong proposed a bill that allowed the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China for trial. The bill set off months of protests, and eventually the Chinese government responded with a stricter measure that allowed for arrests of anyone in Hong Kong who voiced political dissent. 

In doing so, the Hong Kong and Chinese governments effectively ended the ‘one country, two systems’ framework, and subjected Hong Kong’s residents to the dictatorial rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

The sweeping national security law paved the way for a fascistic crackdown, with several high-profile pro-democracy figures arrested. Now, with every week that passes, there is a new, tragic case of a brave soul speaking out against Beijing and finding themselves locked away.

One recent example is radio DJ Edmund Wan Yiu-sing. “Giggs”, as he is better known, is charged with four counts of “doing an act with a seditious intention”. In other words, the Chinese government believes that Wan used his media platform to stir hatred and contempt against the authorities – although it has not offered any details of what “seditious” things he is alleged to have said.

Wan’s case is notable for a troubling reason. He was not charged under the national security law, or any other hurried new legislation from the last couple of years designed to quash brewing unease among pro-democracy activists. Instead, he was charged under the Crimes Ordinance, which has not been amended since 1972, when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule. For a first offence on this charge, Wan could end up with a fine of HK$5,000 and two years in jail.

Last year, a group of British members of Parliament – all members of the governing Conservative Party – formed the China Research Group to campaign on issues relating to Hong Kong, and other China-adjacent areas of foreign policy. While their efforts have been admirable in drawing attention to China’s atrocities and forcing the government’s hand on matters of diplomacy, there has so far been a lack of appreciation of the role Britain has played in laying the foundations in Hong Kong for the oppression we are seeing today.

Imperial remnants

The Wan case is not the first time colonial-era British laws have been used to malicious ends by the CCP-controlled Hong Kong government. For instance, in April of last year, in an extraordinary indication of the disdain the ruling regime feels for those who speak out against it, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam doubled down on a ban on face masks which had been introduced in October of the previous year.

Lam even went to court to defend her right to prevent dissenters from covering their faces, despite the raging coronavirus pandemic, thanks to another colonial-era British law. The law in question – the Emergency Regulations Ordinance – was introduced in 1922 to combat strikes by Chinese fishermen who were protesting against their pitiful wages. It was passed in a single day with minimal scrutiny, and it remains on the statute book, with appalling consequences a century later.

Unlike the CCP’s genocidal campaign against the Uighur ethnic minority in the country’s Xinjiang province, where Beijing claims nothing of note is taking place, the Chinese Communist Party likes to draw the world’s attention to its deeds in Hong Kong. It is as if the CCP is taunting Britain, the region’s former ruler. For instance, it released a statement via state propaganda channels last July urging the UK to ‘abandon the illusion of continuing its colonial influence’ there.

So while the Chinese government makes out as though it is rescuing Hongkongers from the grip of its British imperial overlords by oppressing them and reneging on its international commitments, it is in fact making use of the legacy of British rule in Hong Kong for its own dictatorial purposes. This fact ought to be acknowledged in the UK, and it should inform the UK’s response to China’s aggression in the region.

Last month, after the governments of China and Hong Kong said that they would no longer recognize British National Overseas (BNO) passports as valid travel documents, the British government implemented a new visa scheme, granting Hong Kong residents a path to UK citizenship. This is a good start, but in light of the above, it plainly does not go far enough.

Hongkongers, through no fault of their own, are caught in the middle of a deeply unpleasant diplomatic divorce between the UK and China. They are stuck under the thumb of an abusive parent and it is Britain’s duty to do everything in its power to help them upend and relocate their lives to the UK, even if that means embracing radical ideas. Half-measures will not suffice. Britain is Hongkongers’ only safe refuge now – they must be made to feel welcome.

Jason Reed is a policy analyst and political commentator. He is the UK liaison at Young Voices. Jason writes for the Times (of London), the Independent, the Telegraph, and many other outlets.

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A Hong Kong penthouse just sold for $59 million – or $17,542 per square foot – making it the priciest apartment ever sold in Asia

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The five-bedroom penthouse comes with a private rooftop, a swimming pool, and three parking spots.

A five-bedroom penthouse in Hong Kong just sold to an unidentified buyer for about $59 million, breaking the record for the most expensive condo ever sold in Asia by square footage, Shawna Kwan reported for Bloomberg.

The residence sold for a whopping $17,542 per square foot.

The seller was developer Victor Li, the chairman of CK Asset Holdings, a Hong Kong property developer valued at about $23 billion. He’s the son of Hong Kong’s second-richest man, Li Ka-shing, who has a net worth of $36.7 billion, according to Forbes.

The 3,378-square-foot apartment sits on the top floor of a 23-story luxury residential building at 21 Borrett Road in Mid-Levels, an affluent residential neighborhood that’s surrounded by upscale restaurants and offers panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, according to Luxe Living Asia. 

21 borrett street hong kong
21 Borrett Road is a luxury residential complex of five buildings.

21 Borrett Road, completed in 2020, is a complex of five residential buildings with 181 units, according to Homewise Realty, which markets the property. Only a few of its apartments have been put on the market.

The developer delayed the sales launch of the Road residences in August 2019 because of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, according to Hong Kong publication The Standard.

The penthouse is the development’s largest unit and comes with a ​​2,131-square-foot private rooftop as well as a 717-square-foot terrace.

21 borrett road hong kong
Sales of 21 Borrett Road’s residences were delayed in August 2019 amid social unrest in Hong Kong.

Li of CK Asset Holdings declined to comment for this story.

The priciest apartment in Asia

The Borrett Road penthouse broke Asia’s record for price per square footage, but it’s not the most expensive apartment ever sold on the continent.

In 2017, two apartments in Hong Kong’s Mount Nicholson development sold for a combined $149 million. The price per square foot in that deal, however, was $16,897 – about $645 cheaper per square foot than the Borrett Road residence.

Singapore, another one of Asia’s priciest cities for real estate, is also known for condos that sell at exorbitant prices.

In 2019, Dyson vacuum billionaire James Dyson paid $54 million for a three-story penthouse in Singapore’s Guoco Tower. That residence, however, was massive – 21,000 square feet – meaning he paid only about $2,571 per square foot. A little over a year later, he sold it at a loss for $47 million.

Singapore’s largest penthouse, a 28,000-square-foot spread of five combined residences, hit the market earlier this month for $104 million.

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Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, several standalone mansions have sold at much higher prices than the Borrett Road penthouse. In the exclusive enclave of the Peak, where billionaires and business moguls live in secluded mansions, homes can sell for hundreds of millions.

In 2016, real-estate developer Chen Hongtian paid $270 million for a 9,212-square-foot mansion at 15 Gough Hill Road. In January 2017, iPhone screen manufacturing billionaire Yeung Kin-man paid $361 million for a 51,000-square-foot mansion on Pollock’s Path. Alibaba founder Jack Ma was rumored to have bought a $191 million mansion in the Peak in 2015, but it’s never been confirmed.

Just last week, a group of investors paid about $935 million for a 1.25-acre parcel of land in the Peak that was previously used as housing for Hong Kong civil servants. It was the highest price ever paid per-square-foot for a government-owned parcel of land.

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