'What? Me worry?' is attitude of Hong Kong travel industry

November 01, 1992|By Dallas Morning News

"In Hong Kong, you are your job," says Eugene Sullivan.

"Hong Kong is the most perfect capitalist environment that I've ever been able to live in," says Peter Borer.

Mr. Sullivan is executive director of the Hong Kong Tourist

Association. Mr. Borer is vice president of the Peninsula Group, a Hong Kong-based corporation employing 4,500 people and comprising six luxury hotels worldwide, real estate, food manufacturers, air catering, tourist attractions, fast-food restaurants and more.

These tourist-industry people decline to discuss the politics of Hong Kong, but they're happy to talk business. And business is what Hong Kong -- the financial hub and arguably the shopping capital of Asia -- is all about.

But if capitalism makes Hong Kong tick now, will it become a wholly different place when it leaves British rule and is returned -- to communist China in 1997?

"We don't anticipate any changes in our operations in 1997," says Mr. Sullivan.

Terms of the Sino-British treaty state that the Hong Kong status quo is to be maintained for 50 years after China takes over. But there's no guarantee that China will respect that.

"China hasn't said anything one way or another," says Mr. Sullivan, who has been in his current job for five years. "If they know, they're not saying."

Of course, since the massacre at Tiananmen, the worry many people have is not about business but about human rights.

Marita Marcos, international sales manager with the hotel Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, toes the same optimistic company line as these other business people, though not quite as confidently.

She also says she is seeing nervousness among many Hong Kong citizens, who are racing to emigrate or get passports from other countries, to ensure they won't be trapped in a repressive regime.

But Mr. Borer, a citizen of Switzerland, is absolutely certain that his new landlord won't make a mite of difference to the city he has come to love. In fact, he says, the Peninsula's Hong Kong hotel doesn't even have any special plans for that first day of 1997.

"I think it's a Monday or Tuesday," he says. "I will just go to work."

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