Business

Japanese firms in Hong Kong concerned protests may escalate as ministry issues warning

JIJI

The Foreign Ministry issued a Level 1 travel warning Wednesday advising travelers to Hong Kong to exercise caution amid continued protests, as Japanese firms operating in the territory become increasingly concerned about the impacts to their businesses.

The protests — over a bill to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China — have led to clashes with police, putting a damper on retail sales and threatening those on business trips in the region.

Japanese financial institutions with branches in the international financial hub have become wary of conducting business in the area.

MUFG Bank, a unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., has instructed its employees against making unnecessary business trips to Hong Kong. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. is stepping up efforts to confirm the whereabouts of employees who are in the area for business purposes.

Some companies have instructed employees to work at home if their safety cannot be guaranteed, as public transport systems in Hong Kong have been disrupted by the chaos.

Major gyūdon beef-on-rice bowl restaurant operator Yoshinoya Holdings Co., which has 61 outlets in the territory, mainly in downtown districts, saw a steep decline in sales for July. A public relations official said that the damage is significant as the region has one of the biggest customer bases in the world.

A Sogo department store near Causeway Bay was forced to temporarily shut as the outlet, run by Sogo & Seibu Co., is close to Victoria Park, the starting point for many protest marches.

Flights to and from Hong Kong International Airport have also been delayed or canceled due to sit-in protests. Although flight operations have currently returned to normal, a Japan Airlines official called on passengers to keep checking the latest information on its website and to arrive at the airport early.