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

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H2o limitations are established up exterior 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 wish listing for its new leader: scrap COVID-19 quarantine rules, and promote the rule of legislation and clear laws to revive international trader self-assurance – right before the territory becomes a hardship posting.

Previous protection main John Lee, who will become chief executive of the former British colony on Friday, wants to reboot the when-teeming worldwide fiscal hub, 8 business enterprise leaders explained, simply because its border has properly been sealed because 2020 and intercontinental arrivals subject to stringent quarantine and screening protocols.

These measures, together with a person 7 days of mandatory lodge quarantine, and stool screening of babies for coronavirus have hammered Hong Kong’s competitiveness, the executives claimed.

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“Hong Kong, when a person of the most sought-immediately after postings for executives, has come to be a hardship publishing because of to the deficiency of intercontinental connectivity,” reported Stuart Bailey, chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Marketplace Association, which has been battered by the constraints.

“The to start with move is to resume quarantine-totally free journey to the city,” he extra. “We are pretty much the past area in the globe that even now demands travellers to quarantine on arrival and this ought to change as shortly as probable. The following move is a major PR physical exercise to get folks to arrive.”

Hong Kong’s as soon as-buzzing nightlife scene has sputtered, with many common bars vacant on what would normally be packed weekends. The metropolis noticed a web outflow of far more than 134,000 men and women in the first fifty percent of this yr, when compared with just 1,813 in the very same interval of 2021.

Data exhibits inhabitants leaving the town for fantastic withdrew a whole of HK$9.014 billion in 2021, up 52% from the preceding 12 months. For the initially quarter, withdrawals from MPF accounts – govt-mandated discounts, which departing citizens can funds out on – amounted to HK$2.014 billion, up from HK$1.931 billion a year previously, the latest data demonstrates.

Hong Kong has experimented with to emulate China’s “dynamic zero COVID” approach. But compared with in the mainland, Hong Kong’s territory, property to a lot more than 7 million people, continues to be really reliant on global travel and business enterprise.

Expertise, businesses and conventions have left in droves for locations this kind of as Singapore and Dubai, fed up with far more than 3 several years of turbulence, starting with anti-federal government protests in 2019.

In a indication of the city’s developing remoteness from the relaxation of the location, Citigroup main government Jane Fraser and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon have equally frequented Singapore in the previous two months, journeys that would normally contain Hong Kong, to visit important banking shoppers and senior staff members.

‘HALT TO HONG KONG’

Lee is confronted with managing the desires of the worldwide group and the neighborhood group, whose precedence is to open up with mainland China, explained authorities adviser Bernard Chan, a convener for the city’s Govt Council and a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress.

The government “cannot just forego China for the worldwide industry, I imagine if we send out that concept the neighborhood community will be upset. Taking care of both of those is basically really tough for the next administration.”

Though lots of Asia Pacific-headquartered enterprises have remaining, people whose business mostly relates to China would however prefer Hong Kong, Chan said. Having said that, the metropolis needs to improve its liveability to entice again talent.

“It’s not just about carrying out business, its the place you put your relatives, schooling, faculty,” he claimed. “If we go on to improve on that then we can be aggressive to Singapore, Dubai, but it will just take time since this time all around we have place a halt to Hong Kong.”

Some executives are nonetheless 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. read through far more

Emphasizing Hong Kong’s rule of law and transparent regulatory method is significant for drawing back again expertise, stated Kher Sheng Lee, the Asia Pacific co-head of the Alternate Financial investment Administration Association.

“The new administration should concentration on what are the key elements that push Hong Kong’s aggressive rewards from the mounting tide of competition at a time when folks are leaving,” Lee stated.

A timetable for opening to the rest of the entire world and a new internet marketing crew to revitalise Hong Kong’s picture are very important, said Stewart Aldcroft, a funds management advisor who has been in Hong Kong for 37 several years.

Lee will have to get started by stanching the outflow of talent, said Sally Wong, main govt of at the Hong Kong Investment Funds Association.

“The longer we delay opening up, the much more we are turning away talent,” Wong claimed. “Correctly, we are chipping absent our competitiveness.”

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Additional reporting by Clare Jim and Kane Wu Editing by Gerry Doyle

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