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

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Hong Kong
CNN Business
 — 

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

The previous British colony’s name as an international economic middle has been battered for the duration of the final two a long time by its adherence to China’s unbending Covid restrictions. They have produced the metropolis considerably less appealing for expats and significantly tougher for international executives to pay a visit to.

Speaking in Mandarin at his inauguration, attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the main executive of the Hong Kong authorities claimed he would “consolidate” the city’s “inherent advantageous industries.”

Lee did not give any plan depth, nor did he handle developing pushback in opposition to the city’s controversial Covid procedures and border controls that have alarmed several worldwide providers.

Hong Kong has extended been an crucial gateway to mainland China and an East-West conduit for global business. But the city’s upcoming has been known as into dilemma by China’s moves to erode its autonomy — including introducing a nationwide protection regulation in 2020 — and an exodus of expertise due to the Covid policies.

Earlier this year, a study of European companies in Hong Kong observed that just about 50 percent of them ended up thinking about relocating in the up coming calendar year.

That tracked with a very similar report from the American Chamber of Commerce in January, which discovered that 44% of expats and organizations had been possible to go away the city.

“Hong Kong even now holds company chances but an array of troubles, specially draconian vacation constraints and worsening US-China relations, weigh on sentiment,” the US report stated.

Hong Kong’s quarantine principles are notorious among the inhabitants and expats. At one point, the govt expected most inbound vacationers to isolate in lodge rooms, on their own dime, for a few weeks, a single of the world’s longest isolation durations.

Although Hong Kong officials have lifted flight bans and scaled again the quarantine necessities, an outflow of talent is already actively playing out.

Even devoid of the Covid crisis, headhunters were being obtaining trouble bringing expertise to Hong Kong because of Beijing’s developing oversight of the semi-autonomous territory.

Xi, in his speech at Lee’s inauguration ceremony on Friday, explained Beijing would “fully help Hong Kong” in “consolidating its status as an global monetary, shipping and delivery and trade center” and “maintaining a absolutely free, open and regulated company atmosphere.”

Apart from enhancing Hong Kong’s present-day position in finance and shipping and delivery, Lee said his govt would also create up the city’s technological innovation and innovation industries.

“We will acquire emerging industries, and create Hong Kong into an worldwide innovation center,” Lee reported.

During his speech, Lee extolled China’s Belt and Road and Bigger Bay Region initiatives, which he explained have specified Hong Kong “unlimited opportunities and limitless progress area.”

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

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