Hong Kong – Hong Kong’s allure to international businesses remains strong as the city is energized by the growth momentum in the new national development plan, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday.
Lam was responding to questions from the media about comments that suggested Hong Kong’s political environment and COVID-19 restrictions have weakened its global appeal.
In a survey of 325 member companies of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, 42 percent reported being inclined to leave the city, citing “discomfort” with the National Security Law for Hong Kong, enacted in June 2020.
But Lam said that business investment in Hong Kong-based companies and the number of companies aspiring to come to Hong Kong are better indicators of the city’s overall business landscape.
The latest government data shows Hong Kong is home to 9,000 Chinese mainland and overseas companies, the majority of which have regional headquarters or offices in the city, Lam said. Far from seeing any significant capital outflow, Hong Kong securities markets are performing well, and the banking sector remains stable, she said.
She also said that during her interactions with the business community in the past two months, she has been told that the sector’s initial concern about the national security legislation has subsided and been replaced by keen interest in the opportunities within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area under the nation’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).
“What more favorable policies will come from the central government to facilitate the free flow of goods, capital, people and data between Hong Kong and the mainland Bay Area cities? These are the general sentiments that we have received from the business community at large,” Lam said.
She also said that Hong Kong is leveraging its new position as an international hub for art and cultural exchanges under the 14th Five-Year Plan. For example, galleries have reported strong sales at the just concluded Art Basel Hong Kong fair.
The concerns fueled by the AmCham report were also dismissed by Li Yinquan, director of the Hong Kong-based China Merchant Capital Investment Group. Li said that such claims were neither in line with the fact that Hong Kong saw net cash inflow in 2020, nor the observations of his own company, one of the world’s largest alternative investment management firms.
The continued capital inflows were no surprise to him since the factors on which investors really depend — a stable social environment, a mature legal system, the free flow of capital — have remained intact in Hong Kong over the past year.
As for the upcoming changes under the national economic initiatives, Li said that global investors will rave about closer economic ties between Hong Kong and the mainland, which will be more insurance for the growth of their businesses in the city.
Andrew Yao Cho-fai, founder of local property investment and management group Hong Kong and Shanghai Land Capital, said that local entities, like enterprises and universities, should actively put into practice the initiatives relating to Hong Kong in the latest Five-Year Plan, so as to demonstrate the tangible benefits of closer cross-border collaborations and strengthen the international community’s confidence in the city’s future.
Stephen Phillips, Invest Hong Kong’s director-general of investment promotion, earlier told China Daily that his department has been frequently called upon to elaborate on ways for international companies to take advantage of China’s national strategies, such as the Greater Bay Area-related policies. He also refuted those skeptical about the city and highlighted a growing global interest in Hong Kong during the pandemic.