Business & Economy

‘The worst is behind us’: Hong Kong leader assures international banks

Shanghai, China, Nov 2 (EFE).- Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee on Wednesday told a group of powerful international bankers that the worst of the crisis has already passed for his city-state, which has been hit by instability since pro-democracy protests broke out in 2019, followed by the disruption caused by anti-Covid restrictions.

Lee was speaking during the second day of the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit, the largest gathering of global financial sector heavyweights in Hong Kong in nearly three years.

According to local authorities, more than 200 regional and international executives and leaders are participating in the summit, representing around 120 financial institutions and organizations, although some big names withdrew themselves in the last minutes due to Covid, such as the Citigroup CEO and the chairman of the Blackstone group.

In his speech, Lee tried to send a message that Hong Kong was “back on stage” and said that despite the ups and downs faced by the city, it always returned stronger than before.

He said he had full confidence in the future of the former British colony, which was already on the rebound as anti-Covid restrictions were withdrawn, referring to decisions such as reducing the mandatory quarantine period after arriving the city to three days, although one is allowed to go out during this time without entering any establishments.

In the last two years, Hong Kong has witnessed a drop in its workforce to the tune of 140,000 workers, with critics terming it a “brain-drain” linked to the political situation and anti-Covid norms.

With regard to Lee’s promise to attract new foreign talent, the opposition has insisted that the new measures would fail to give the city an advantage over competitors like London or Singapore.

Singapore has already overtaken Hong Kong as Asia’s main financial hub and become the third largest in the world according to the Global Financial Centres Index, which highlights city authorites’ “zero-Covid” policy and the resulting exodus of talent.

Although the restrictions kicked off in 2020, the preceding year had already been marked by instability in the Chinese semi-autonomous region due to the protests, referred to by Lee on Wednesday as “disturbances and violence.”

He said that social disturbances were a thing of the past and had given way to stability for businesses to grow and community confidence for Hong Kong’s future. “Law and order have returned,” he said.

Yi Gang, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, also addressed the event through a recorded speech, hailing the resilience of Hong Kong’s economy and its financial system, insisting that the city would continue to be important as a financial hub that connects continental China with the international market.

En el evento también intervino, aunque mediante una grabación, el gobernador del Banco Popular de China (BPC, central), Yi Gang, quien elogió la “resistencia” de la economía hongkonesa y su sistema financiero y aseguró que la ciudad “es y seguirá siendo importante como centro financiero, conectando la China continental con el mercado internacional”.

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan, the chief architect of the summit, is also set to address the event, although his presence was in doubt until Tuesday night after he caught Covid-19 last week during a visit to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. EFE


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