John Lee: Hong Kong leader vows to shore up global business role

Edna B. Shearer

Hong Kong
CNN Business

Hong Kong’s new chief John Lee on Friday vowed to strengthen the city’s standing as a world business hub, but he gave no hint of diverging from Beijing’s insistence on demanding zero-Covid principles.

The former British colony’s reputation as an global fiscal middle has been battered for the duration of the last two decades by its adherence to China’s unbending Covid limits. They have created the metropolis significantly less appealing for expats and substantially more difficult for foreign executives to check out.

Speaking in Mandarin at his inauguration, attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the chief government of the Hong Kong government explained he would “consolidate” the city’s “inherent useful industries.”

Lee didn’t give any policy depth, nor did he tackle escalating pushback in opposition to the city’s controversial Covid policies and border controls that have alarmed numerous global companies.

Hong Kong has prolonged been an vital gateway to mainland China and an East-West conduit for global business. But the city’s long run has been termed into concern by China’s moves to erode its autonomy — together with introducing a national safety law in 2020 — and an exodus of expertise because of to the Covid rules.

Earlier this 12 months, a survey of European companies in Hong Kong located that practically half of them were being thinking about relocating in the up coming year.

That tracked with a similar report from the American Chamber of Commerce in January, which uncovered that 44% of expats and companies have been very likely to depart the town.

“Hong Kong nonetheless holds organization options but an array of challenges, in particular draconian vacation limits and worsening US-China relations, weigh on sentiment,” the US report mentioned.

Hong Kong’s quarantine rules are notorious between people and expats. At one particular level, the governing administration needed most inbound travelers to isolate in lodge rooms, on their possess dime, for 3 months, one of the world’s longest isolation durations.

Even though Hong Kong officers have lifted flight bans and scaled back again the quarantine specifications, an outflow of expertise is already playing out.

Even with no the Covid disaster, headhunters have been owning issues bringing talent to Hong Kong for the reason that of Beijing’s rising oversight of the semi-autonomous territory.

Xi, in his speech at Lee’s inauguration ceremony on Friday, claimed Beijing would “fully guidance Hong Kong” in “consolidating its position as an global fiscal, shipping and delivery and trade center” and “maintaining a totally free, open and regulated organization surroundings.”

Aside from boosting Hong Kong’s recent situation in finance and delivery, Lee said his governing administration would also establish up the city’s technological innovation and innovation industries.

“We will produce emerging industries, and create Hong Kong into an international innovation center,” Lee explained.

For the duration of his speech, Lee extolled China’s Belt and Road and Larger Bay Place initiatives, which he mentioned have offered Hong Kong “unlimited opportunities and endless growth area.”

Alex Stambaugh, Charlie Fong, and Allison Morrow contributed to this report.

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