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

Drinking water obstacles are set up outdoors the Hong Kong Conference and Exhibition Centre, forward of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China June 29, 2022. REUTERS/Lam Yik/File Picture

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HONG KONG, June 30 (Reuters) – Company executives in Hong Kong have a want record for its new chief: scrap COVID-19 quarantine rules, and advertise the rule of regulation and transparent polices to revive international investor confidence – just before the territory will become a hardship publishing.

Previous protection chief John Lee, who gets main government of the former British colony on Friday, wants to reboot the after-teeming worldwide economical hub, eight small business leaders reported, because its border has efficiently been sealed since 2020 and worldwide arrivals subject matter to stringent quarantine and testing protocols.

These steps, which includes one 7 days of obligatory hotel quarantine, and stool tests of infants for coronavirus have hammered Hong Kong’s competitiveness, the executives explained.

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“Hong Kong, when a person of the most sought-right after postings for executives, has grow to be a hardship posting due to the deficiency of global connectivity,” mentioned Stuart Bailey, chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Marketplace Association, which has been battered by the limitations.

“The first action is to resume quarantine-absolutely free vacation to the metropolis,” he included. “We are practically the past put in the entire world that continue to requires travellers to quarantine on arrival and this need to transform as quickly as doable. The subsequent phase is a major PR exercise to get people to arrive.”

Hong Kong’s when-buzzing nightlife scene has sputtered, with several well-liked bars empty on what would commonly be packed weekends. The city observed a web outflow of extra than 134,000 individuals in the initial half of this yr, in comparison with just 1,813 in the very same period of 2021.

Information displays inhabitants leaving the city for excellent withdrew a complete of HK$9.014 billion in 2021, up 52% from the past year. For the to start with quarter, withdrawals from MPF accounts – government-mandated cost savings, which departing residents can funds out on – amounted to HK$2.014 billion, up from HK$1.931 billion a year before, the most up-to-date data reveals.

Hong Kong has tried out to emulate China’s “dynamic zero COVID” tactic. But as opposed to in the mainland, Hong Kong’s territory, residence to far more than 7 million individuals, stays hugely reliant on worldwide journey and company.

Expertise, corporations and conventions have left in droves for destinations these types of as Singapore and Dubai, fed up with far more than a few a long time of turbulence, beginning with anti-govt protests in 2019.

In a indicator of the city’s increasing remoteness from the rest of the area, Citigroup chief executive Jane Fraser and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon have both of those frequented Singapore in the past two months, trips that would usually incorporate Hong Kong, to take a look at crucial banking shoppers and senior staff members.


Lee is confronted with taking care of the needs of the worldwide neighborhood and the regional neighborhood, whose priority is to open up up with mainland China, explained govt adviser Bernard Chan, a convener for the city’s Executive Council and a deputy to China’s Nationwide People’s Congress.

The governing administration “cannot just forego China for the worldwide industry, I consider if we ship that message the regional neighborhood will be upset. Running both equally is in fact extremely demanding for the upcoming administration.”

When numerous Asia Pacific-headquartered enterprises have remaining, individuals whose organization mostly relates to China would nonetheless favor Hong Kong, Chan said. Nevertheless, the metropolis wants to boost its liveability to entice again talent.

“It’s not just about undertaking small business, its where you put your loved ones, training, faculty,” he explained. “If we continue on to strengthen on that then we can be competitive to Singapore, Dubai, but it will choose time mainly because this time all-around we have set a halt to Hong Kong.”

Some executives are even now optimistic on the outlook for Hong Kong as a finance hub, and they believe it will continue to be the springboard for accessing mainland China. browse far more

Emphasizing Hong Kong’s rule of legislation and transparent regulatory technique is critical for drawing again talent, reported Kher Sheng Lee, the Asia Pacific co-head of the Alternative Financial investment Administration Affiliation.

“The new administration will have to focus on what are the essential variables that drive Hong Kong’s aggressive strengths versus the mounting tide of levels of competition at a time when folks are leaving,” Lee explained.

A timetable for opening to the relaxation of the world and a new marketing workforce to revitalise Hong Kong’s impression are crucial, explained Stewart Aldcroft, a cash administration guide who has been in Hong Kong for 37 several years.

Lee have to begin by stanching the outflow of expertise, said Sally Wong, main government of at the Hong Kong Investment decision Funds Affiliation.

“The for a longer period we hold off opening up, the far more we are turning absent talent,” Wong claimed. “Successfully, we are chipping absent our competitiveness.”

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Extra reporting by Clare Jim and Kane Wu Modifying by Gerry Doyle

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