Hong Kong leader John Lee sought to boost confidence in the city’s future as a global financial center on Wednesday as he welcomed some of Wall Street’s top executives to its biggest international event. For years.
Speaking at a much-anticipated investment summit, with more than 200 attendees from 20 countries, the city’s chief executive says it is ‘opening up again’ for international business after more than two years and a half of tough pandemic restrictions.
Lee called the conference a “Hong Kong summit back on stage” or “the stage of getting back to business.”
While addressing some of the executives present, including Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher and HSBC CEO Noel Quinn, the Prime Minister said defiantly reaffirmed its intention to keep the former British colony competitive for global financiers.
“We were, are and will remain one of the world’s leading financial centers,” Lee pledged. “You can take this to the bank.”
Lee also sought to reassure leaders that Hong Kong would retain its role as an international hub separate from mainland China, saying central government officials had expressed support for the city retaining its unique position as a bridge between the East and the West.
China’s latest five-year plan includes goals to enhance the city’s role as an international trade, financial, maritime and air hub, Lee said. “The worst is behind us”
Solomon, Gorman and Kelleher, who took the stage for a panel shortly after Lee’s remarks, did not comment directly on the reopening of the city. But Kelleher noted that “although we’re all very pro-China,” the bank is “waiting for zero-Covid to open up in China and see what happens.”
In September, Hong Kong lifted quarantine requirements that had largely isolated the former British colony, stifled economic activity and fueled a historic brain drain. Mainland China, however, still has a mandate in place for most incoming travelers to self-isolate for at least seven days, as part of its strict “zero-Covid policy”.