By Kin Cheung and Nathan Vanderklippe, AP/The Globe and Mail, August 2019

As unrest in this Asian financial centre reaches from the streets and into boardrooms, the message from Beijing has become increasingly clear: Respect Chinese dictates or prepare for the consequences.

Over the past two weeks, executives, pilots and union leaders have lost jobs over shows of support for pro-democracy demonstrators, whose protests have continued for more than two months.

The global accounting firms that employ thousands in the city – and thousands more in mainland China – have publicly condemned the demands of some demonstrators.

Managers at financial companies have ordered employees to stay away from protests.

The corporate convulsions come as Chinese authorities adopt a strategy of increasingly harsh consequences, both for protesters now being cleared from the streets with powerful new weapons, such as water cannons, and for companies seen as sympathetic to a protest movement whose actions Beijing has likened to terrorism.

And Chinese leadership hopes the fear it has created in Hong Kong will be felt elsewhere, too, as it wields the power of the world’s second-largest economy to enforce its will far outside its borders.

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