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

Water barriers are established up outside the house the Hong Kong Conference 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 Photo

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HONG KONG, June 30 (Reuters) – Organization executives in Hong Kong have a want record for its new leader: scrap COVID-19 quarantine policies, and boost the rule of law and transparent restrictions to revive foreign investor assurance – just before the territory gets a hardship submitting.

Previous stability main John Lee, who gets to be chief govt of the previous British colony on Friday, demands to reboot the the moment-teeming global financial hub, 8 business leaders mentioned, mainly because its border has efficiently been sealed due to the fact 2020 and intercontinental arrivals matter to stringent quarantine and testing protocols.

These actions, which includes one week of obligatory lodge quarantine, and stool tests of infants for coronavirus have hammered Hong Kong’s competitiveness, the executives explained.

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“Hong Kong, once a single of the most sought-after postings for executives, has turn into a hardship posting thanks to the deficiency of intercontinental connectivity,” stated Stuart Bailey, chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Conference Business Affiliation, which has been battered by the limitations.

“The initially step is to resume quarantine-cost-free vacation to the town,” he additional. “We are pretty much the very last spot in the globe that nonetheless demands travellers to quarantine on arrival and this should change as soon as possible. The next phase is a major PR physical exercise to get persons to arrive.”

Hong Kong’s the moment-buzzing nightlife scene has sputtered, with a lot of popular bars vacant on what would normally be packed weekends. The city noticed a net outflow of extra than 134,000 men and women in the very first 50 percent of this 12 months, in comparison with just 1,813 in the very same period of 2021.

Info reveals inhabitants leaving the city for good withdrew a total of HK$9.014 billion in 2021, up 52% from the preceding calendar year. For the very first quarter, withdrawals from MPF accounts – government-mandated financial savings, which departing inhabitants can money out on – amounted to HK$2.014 billion, up from HK$1.931 billion a yr earlier, the latest facts displays.

Hong Kong has experimented with to emulate China’s “dynamic zero COVID” approach. But not like in the mainland, Hong Kong’s territory, dwelling to far more than 7 million people, remains highly reliant on intercontinental vacation and company.

Expertise, firms and conventions have left in droves for locations these as Singapore and Dubai, fed up with far more than a few yrs of turbulence, commencing with anti-govt protests in 2019.

In a sign of the city’s expanding remoteness from the relaxation of the area, Citigroup chief govt Jane Fraser and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon have the two visited Singapore in the previous two months, excursions that would generally contain Hong Kong, to go to important banking purchasers and senior staff.


Lee is confronted with controlling the desires of the intercontinental neighborhood and the neighborhood neighborhood, whose priority is to open up with mainland China, explained government adviser Bernard Chan, a convener for the city’s Govt Council and a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress.

The governing administration “cannot just forego China for the intercontinental industry, I imagine if we deliver that message the local group will be upset. Running the two is really extremely tough for the next administration.”

When quite a few Asia Pacific-headquartered businesses have still left, those whose enterprise mainly relates to China would however prefer Hong Kong, Chan mentioned. However, the city desires to strengthen its liveability to lure again expertise.

“It’s not just about undertaking business enterprise, its the place you place your loved ones, education and learning, school,” he said. “If we keep on to enhance on that then we can be aggressive to Singapore, Dubai, but it will get time simply because this time close to we have set a halt to Hong Kong.”

Some executives are nonetheless optimistic on the outlook for Hong Kong as a finance hub, and they feel it will remain the springboard for accessing mainland China. study additional

Emphasizing Hong Kong’s rule of law and transparent regulatory technique is significant for drawing back again talent, said Kher Sheng Lee, the Asia Pacific co-head of the Alternate Expenditure Administration Affiliation.

“The new administration should concentrate on what are the critical variables that generate Hong Kong’s aggressive positive aspects in opposition to the climbing tide of competition at a time when individuals are leaving,” Lee explained.

A timetable for opening to the rest of the planet and a new internet marketing team to revitalise Hong Kong’s image are important, reported Stewart Aldcroft, a money administration marketing consultant who has been in Hong Kong for 37 a long time.

Lee ought to get started by stanching the outflow of expertise, explained Sally Wong, chief govt of at the Hong Kong Expenditure Money Association.

“The for a longer period we delay opening up, the additional we are turning away talent,” Wong stated. “Proficiently, we are chipping away our competitiveness.”

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

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