Hong Kong Says It’s Back Open For Business. Will The World Buy It?

At this week’s Well-Financed Hong Kong summit, the city’s chief triumphantly declared to a room full of Wall Street executives that the Asian hub was back on track. “The worst is over,” he said.

Two days later, thousands of rugby fans gathered at the city’s largest stadium, the Hong Kong Sevens, the biggest (and usually biggest) sporting event of the year. It has been extended since 2019 due to political instability and then due to COVID-19. 19.

Two high-profile international events sent a clear message: Hong Kong has finally reopened after nearly three years of border closures, mandatory quarantines and restrictions on business and social gatherings.

For most outbreaks, the semi-autonomous Chinese city has maintained some of the region’s strictest restrictions, including the world’s longest mandatory quarantine for foreign immigrants. As the world develops, Hong Kong’s economy is deteriorating and worries are rising as the government finally opened the city’s gates in September, bringing relief to millions of people and ending the official lockdown.

“We were, are and will be one of the world’s leading financial centers,” Hong Kong Governor John Lee said at a conference of more than 200 investors from 20 countries on Wednesday. – You can take it to the bank.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s tournament, Hong Kong Rugby Union chief executive Robbie Marubi called the tournament’s return “an encouraging tipping point”, a sign that “Hong Kong remains a strong and vibrant city”.

But while Hong Kong’s revival efforts are ambitious and long-term, experts warn it faces many challenges.

According to them, the isolation, combined with the long political repressions of recent years, had an effect. Lee and other leaders stressed that the reopening of Hong Kong is not the city the world knew before the pandemic, and the true impact of these changes remains unclear.

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Last year, with many destinations reopening to travelers and restrictions lifted, Hong Kong seemed to be stuck in a different reality.

Restaurants, bars and gyms have often been forced to close or limit opening hours. Residential buildings were closed for the day. At one time, the general meeting was limited to only two people. Most residents did not leave the city for years, unable or unwilling to spend up to three weeks in a hotel at their own expense after leaving.

Institutions have been hit hard. Sevens competitions account for 95% of rugby union revenue in Hong Kong, so “we’ve had three years of layoffs and layoffs,” McCrob said.

Many desperate residents decided to leave forever. Last year, the city recorded its largest population decline since registration began in 1961. Companies began to look elsewhere, in particular Singapore, Hong Kong’s longtime regional rival.

But as Hong Kong officials eager to reopen the border with mainland China – still showing no signs of easing strict virus control policies aimed at eradicating infections – are unwilling to ease restrictions, cases are popping up and those doors are closing.

Then a major outbreak of the highly contagious Omicron strain earlier in the year ended Hong Kong’s hopes of maintaining zero daily cases.

Under growing public pressure, the government eased quarantine measures at hotels in March, lifting flight restrictions with some countries, but those small concessions did little to help people return.

Media reports emerged in August that some Wall Street bank executives warned that their executives would attend Wednesday’s financial meeting if there was a move towards neutrality, and are widely believed to be behind the government’s final decision to cancel neutrality.

The city’s financial leaders breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing the news.

“We have been closing our doors for a long time,” said Sebastian Paredes, chief executive of the Hong Kong division of Singapore-based DBS Bank. “We will start opening after other parts of the world have already opened. This is a clear sign of the return of Hong Kong.”

Alicia García Herrera, chief Asia-Pacific economist at the French investment bank, agreed that the week’s two highlights were “significant signs that Hong Kong is moving away from Covid restrictions and moving into a new world.”

However, the remaining constraints create a competitive advantage.

Foreign visitors must take a Covid test for seven consecutive days after arriving in Hong Kong and are prohibited from entering restaurants, bars and gyms for the first three days. But testing doesn’t stop there: Bars and clubs that don’t serve food require immediate antigen test results for all customers.

While photos from the financial summit show them sitting at a table with their faces uncovered, orders for masks – both indoors and outdoors – are also in effect. Among them, health officials have declared city finance minister Paul Chan a “return case” after he tested positive for the virus on Tuesday after arriving from overseas.

But both experts acknowledge that the road ahead is now fraught with new dangers. International companies may flock to Hong Kong, but be more careful about how much they invest in the city given the threat of US sanctions and regional conflict.

Today, Beijing controls Hong Kong, and as leader Xi Jinping completes his third term as president, surrounded by his loyal followers, China is becoming more assertive on the world stage. García Herrera said the escalating tensions between China and its rivals have “exacerbated a rift that has been growing as the world has contracted” and its consequences will inevitably spill over into a Hong Kong stuck in the middle.

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