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Hong Kong Accountants Say Protests May Spur Exodus of Companies

The world’s four biggest accounting companies said a planned pro-democracy sit-in protest in Hong Kong’s business district may lead to an exodus of firms, hurting the economy.

Organizers of Occupy Central with Love and Peace, who are against China’s plans to vet candidates for elections in the city, should resolve the differences through negotiations, KPMG LLP, Deloitte LLP, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a joint statement published today in the Hong Kong Economic Journal newspaper.

The debate over how to elect Hong Kong’s next leader in 2017 has divided the city, with billionaires, brokers and foreign chambers of commerce opposing protest plans by Occupy Central. More than 740,000 people have voted in an unofficial referendum organized by Occupy Central activists backing electoral reforms that aren’t supported by the Chinese government.

“If Occupy Central happens, commercial institutions such as banks, exchanges and the stock market will inevitably be affected,” the accounting companies said. “We are worried that multinational corporations and investors will consider relocating their headquarters from Hong Kong or even withdrawing their businesses.”

Occupy Central activists have called on the Hong Kong and Chinese governments to heed the public opinion expressed through its polls, while calling on residents to join the annual protest march on July 1, the anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule. The activists want public nomination of candidates.

The advertisement today by the accountants follow similar public statements by the Canadian, Indian and Italian chambers of commerce and the Institute of Securities Dealers and the Hong Kong Securities Professionals Association.

China issued a policy paper on Hong Kong on June 10, saying that the city’s autonomy comes from the Chinese government, saying some residents in the city are “confused.”

Hong Kong was granted its own legal system and autonomy over most matters for 50 years under the Basic Law, the city’s de-facto constitution, after the U.K. returned the territory to China in 1997.

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