Economic Freedom Index | SARs excluded from rankings as policies ‘ultimately controlled from Beijing’

Macau and Hong Kong were dropped from an economic freedom index as the Heritage Foundation noted that their economic policies are controlled by Beijing.
The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom 2021 has removed Hong Kong from a list that it topped for 25 years until 2019.
Hong Kong and Singapore traded places in the 2020 index for the first time ever in its 26-year history, primarily due to a decline in the investment freedom score for Hong Kong.
While Hong Kong and Macau residents benefit from policies offering greater economic freedom than on the mainland, “developments in recent years have demonstrated unambiguously that those policies are ultimately controlled from Beijing,” the Washington-based think tank noted.
Developments in the two SARs that are relevant to economic freedom would be considered in the context of China’s evaluation within the index, the report added.
Political and social scientist Larry So, meanwhile, believes that it is expected that there would be some kind of sanctions from the U.S., following the implementation of the national security law in June. The U.S. State Department previously said that the detentions of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong show how the national security law imposed by Beijing is being used to stifle dissent.
On Sunday, Hong Kong police charged dozens of opposition activists with violating the city’s national security law, taking formal action against them less than a week before China’s highest-profile annual political meeting.
“The American government is trying to [take] some kind of action against [the central government], trying to put pressure so that they can help these [activists]. […] China [could] be saying that this is a domestic issue and has nothing to do with foreign countries who are trying to intervene,” So told the Times.
Speaking about the Washington-based think tank, So said, “This kind of ranking is, first of all, politicized, [as] they are trying to [apply] pressure to see if China will give in. [But] I don’t think China will really pay that much attention.”
China slipped down to 103 from 107 in the rankings, among the list of 178 countries.
The motherland ranks between Uganda and Uzbekistan among economies rated as “mostly unfree.”
The move to dump both Hong Kong and Macau’s independent ratings comes as top Communist Party officials prepare to meet in Beijing for the National People’s Congress today.
The congress is expected to unveil further measures designed to bring Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement to heel.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Finance Secretary Paul Chan pushed back against the think tank’s decision to remove Hong Kong’s standalone ranking. “When they arrived at that decision, they must have been clouded by their ideological inclination and political bias,” Chan said during an online conference, according to Radio Television Hong Kong.
For So, the effect of being removed from the rankings is more evident for Hong Kong than Macau, as there is more financial business in the neighboring region than in this city.
“At least the U.S. funding capital when they go to Hong Kong and Macau would [have] some kind of difficulties. [But] in Macau, I don’t think the aftermath will be that serious,” the scholar said.
In the Index of Economic Freedom 2021, five countries (Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and Ireland) earned very high economic freedom scores of 80 or more, putting them in the rank of the economically “free.”

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