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Opinion: Hong Kong’s freedom more important than corporate profits

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For more than half the year, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets to demand their autonomy from China in what’s one of the greatest global underdog fights in recent memory.

China, as one might expect from a powerful opponent of democracy and proponent of censorship, has done all it can to muzzle the protestors, often with violence.

U.S. corporations recently have gotten into the mix, with disappointing results.

Among them are video game giant Activision Blizzard Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI), computer device creator Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), shoe manufacturer Vans and the NBA. Here’s some context: Apple pulled an app the protestors were using to locate each other, and the NBA denounced the general manager of the Houston Rockets for tweeting in support of Hong Kong’s uprising against China. Activision Blizzard banned an esports player for advocating for protestors, and Vans pulled a pro-Hong Kong sneaker out of a competition. Not unexpectedly, all of these companies have financial interests in China.

The Chinese market is notoriously difficult to penetrate, given the strict policies of its government, so the actions of these companies are at least understandable – billions of customers, fans and followers are up for grabs. While recognizing businesses are built to make money, it’s worth noting the expansive influence of larger corporations, in particular, means they must be thoughtful global citizens. It’s really in their own best interests.

In response to the NBA controversy, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, put it well.

“Remember that some things are more important than money. Remember your responsibility,” he said in an open letter. “You may not think of your league as an American undertaking, but whatever you think, what you say and do, represents America to the world. And for an American organization to help the most brutal of regimes silence dissent in pursuit of profit is appalling.”

His point stands on its own, despite criticism that could be made about a politician bringing up the concept of profit over ideals.

All of these companies have all too courteously bowed to China in favor of the almighty dollar, essentially turning their noses at the U.S. ideals of democracy and capitalism that helped them become powerful corporations in the first place.

It’s simply not a good look for corporations to throw their support behind China when their customers and the world’s population are watching so closely.

Everyone loves an underdog story, and even more so for one representing the fight for democracy.

Springfield Business Journal Web Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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Bernie Dana

Your point is well stated and I agree up

To a point. A friend of mine once reminded me that no pancake is so flat that it doesn’t have two sides. So what might be the other side? Might some of these corporate leaders be finding other ways to try to influence the Chinese government and business community to support more freedom for all Chinese residents other than public outcries which the government is known to resist? It is so easy to cite profit as the motive when an organization might be thinking about American jobs or their ability to exert a longer term influence within China? Perhaps we should ask what motivated the leaders of these organizational to do what they did before condemning them as bowing to China in favor of the almighty dollar.

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