Business leaders say new Hong Kong chief must open up city, rebuild its image

Marty Batteen

Water barriers are set up outside the house the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, ahead of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China June 29, 2022. REUTERS/Lam Yik/File Image

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HONG KONG, June 30 (Reuters) – Enterprise executives in Hong Kong have a would like list for its new chief: scrap COVID-19 quarantine principles, and market the rule of legislation and clear polices to revive foreign investor assurance – prior to the territory turns into a hardship posting.

Previous safety chief John Lee, who turns into chief executive of the previous British colony on Friday, requires to reboot the after-teeming international economic hub, eight company leaders said, for the reason that its border has efficiently been sealed considering that 2020 and intercontinental arrivals issue to stringent quarantine and screening protocols.

These steps, which include a person 7 days of mandatory resort quarantine, and stool screening of infants for coronavirus have hammered Hong Kong’s competitiveness, the executives said.

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“Hong Kong, after just one of the most sought-immediately after postings for executives, has grow to be a hardship publishing thanks to the lack of international connectivity,” claimed Stuart Bailey, chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Conference Field Affiliation, which has been battered by the constraints.

“The first move is to resume quarantine-absolutely free vacation to the metropolis,” he extra. “We are practically the previous area in the planet that however needs travellers to quarantine upon arrival and this ought to modify as shortly as attainable. The subsequent step is a significant PR physical exercise to get people to appear.”

Hong Kong’s after-buzzing nightlife scene has sputtered, with lots of popular bars vacant on what would typically be packed weekends. The city saw a internet outflow of far more than 134,000 people today in the to start with half of this calendar year, when compared with just 1,813 in the exact interval of 2021.

Information demonstrates people leaving the town for fantastic withdrew a overall of HK$9.014 billion in 2021, up 52% from the former year. For the initial quarter, withdrawals from MPF accounts – government-mandated price savings, which departing residents can funds out on – amounted to HK$2.014 billion, up from HK$1.931 billion a year before, the latest details reveals.

Hong Kong has tried to emulate China’s “dynamic zero COVID” strategy. But compared with in the mainland, Hong Kong’s territory, house to much more than 7 million folks, continues to be hugely reliant on international vacation and business enterprise.

Expertise, corporations and conventions have remaining in droves for destinations these types of as Singapore and Dubai, fed up with extra than three years of turbulence, starting with anti-authorities protests in 2019.

In a sign of the city’s expanding remoteness from the rest of the location, Citigroup chief govt Jane Fraser and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon have both equally frequented Singapore in the past two months, excursions that would usually contain Hong Kong, to take a look at critical banking clients and senior staff.


Lee is confronted with taking care of the wants of the global neighborhood and the local neighborhood, whose precedence is to open up with mainland China, stated authorities adviser Bernard Chan, a convener for the city’s Executive Council and a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress.

The federal government “cannot just forego China for the intercontinental marketplace, I think if we ship that concept the nearby group will be upset. Handling both equally is actually extremely complicated for the following administration.”

While lots of Asia Pacific-headquartered firms have still left, all those whose small business mainly relates to China would even now desire Hong Kong, Chan mentioned. Even so, the town demands to increase its liveability to entice back again expertise.

“It’s not just about doing business enterprise, its wherever you place your household, education, college,” he explained. “If we proceed to boost on that then we can be aggressive to Singapore, Dubai, but it will consider time mainly because this time all over we have place a halt to Hong Kong.”

Some executives are nevertheless optimistic on the outlook for Hong Kong as a finance hub, and they think it will stay the springboard for accessing mainland China. read more

Emphasizing Hong Kong’s rule of law and transparent regulatory technique is significant for drawing again expertise, claimed Kher Sheng Lee, the Asia Pacific co-head of the Different Expenditure Management Affiliation.

“The new administration need to focus on what are the important components that push Hong Kong’s aggressive positive aspects against the increasing tide of competitors at a time when people are leaving,” Lee said.

A timetable for opening to the relaxation of the planet and a new marketing group to revitalise Hong Kong’s graphic are critical, stated Stewart Aldcroft, a resources administration consultant who has been in Hong Kong for 37 years.

Lee should start off by stanching the outflow of expertise, said Sally Wong, main government of at the Hong Kong Expense Cash Affiliation.

“The for a longer time we delay opening up, the far more we are turning away talent,” Wong reported. “Correctly, we are chipping away our competitiveness.”

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More reporting by Clare Jim and Kane Wu Enhancing by Gerry Doyle

Our Benchmarks: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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