Macao and Hong Kong have been dropped from a prestigious index of the world’s freest economies.
The Washington DC-based Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, cited increasing interference from Beijing as the reason behind the decision.
The foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom – which ranks countries and territories for their ease of doing business – is regarded as one of the most accurate yardsticks of international trade and commerce.
In the 2021 index the foundation said that it had removed Hong Kong and Macao, because even though as special administrative regions they enjoyed more economic freedom than mainland China, “developments in recent years have demonstrated unambiguously that those policies are ultimately controlled from Beijing”.
In future, the Heritage Foundation will treat Hong Kong and Macao as part of China, which is currently in a section whose economies are branded “mostly unfree” at 107th place between Uganda and Uzbekistan.
Previously, the foundation ranked Macao’s economic freedom at 70.3, granting it 35th place in the index.
Paul Chan Mo Po, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, criticised the ranking, noting that it was “clouded by ideological inclination and political bias”.
His remarks are in sharp contrast with his 2019 statement – when Hong Kong headed the table for the 25th consecutive year– when he declared it showed the city’s “economic resilience, high-quality legal framework, low tolerance for corruption, high degree of government transparency, efficient regulatory framework and openness to global commerce”.
Last year longtime rival Singapore dislodged Hong Kong from the index’s top spot for the first time, after Beijing imposed a national security law on the special administrative region.