HK will overcome present challenges to play key role in China’s trade strategy, city’s leader Carrie Lam tells annual Belt and Road Summit

12-Sep-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Top Hong Kong and Beijing officials have backed the city to overcome its present challenges and play an important role in China’s international trade strategy.

Speaking at the annual Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong on Wednesday, the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and senior officials from Beijing’s foreign and commerce ministries said social stability and long-term prosperity were intrinsically linked.

The two-day summit, held against a backdrop of increasingly violent anti-government protests, attracted 5,000 businesspeople and professionals from 60 countries and regions from Europe, Asia and Africa. It was jointly organised by the city’s government and the Trade Development Council.

Addressing hundreds of guests at the opening session, Lam conceded that Hong Kong was facing challenges posed by the US-China trade war and social unrest.

But the chief executive said her government would uphold Beijing’s “one country, two systems” principle, and the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, in bridging divides.

“We can find our way back to reasoned discussion,” she said. “Hong Kong, after all, has been built, and rebuilt, time and again, on our indomitable resilience.

“Call it the spirit of Hong Kong, and know that it will see us through. It will ensure that we also find our place, and help you find yours, along the belt and road.”

Lam said that under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, Hong Kong was an important global finance centre, cultural exchange centre and professional services hub.

Xie Feng, commissioner of Beijing’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong, said that, for the city to succeed in international trade, it must defend the one country, two systems principle and the rule of law.

“Some extremist forces in Hong Kong have … posed grave threats to public security, and flagrantly challenged national sovereignty,” he said.

“Some foreign forces have intervened and distorted the truth … No time should be lost to end the violence and chaos, and every citizen should shoulder their responsibility to defend the rule of law.”

Xie urged anyone who loved Hong Kong to stand up and say no to illegal acts, while three other Beijing officials made similar remarks.

The commissioner’s remarks came after anti-government demonstrators swamped major shopping arcades across Hong Kong on Tuesday night for a series of “singing” protests.:

Glory to Hong Kong, the movement’s newest theme song, echoed through the malls while chants of “Liberate Hong Kong; Revolution of our times” and “Stand with Hong Kong” also erupted intermittently.

Fans attending Hong Kong’s World Cup soccer qualifier against Iran made their feelings known, booing the Chinese national anthem, March of the Volunteers. They also formed a human chain at half-time.

Some foreign participants at the summit said the protests would not affect their interest in doing business with the city.

Albert Oung, founding chair of Hong Kong Myanmar Chamber of Commerce, said he believed the impact of the protests on businesses in the city was limited.

“I still think Hong Kong is one of the safest places [to do business] in the world,” he said.

Peter Mundinia, director general of Kenya’s National Highways Authority, said he did have some fears about getting caught “in the fracas” of the ongoing protests before his arrival. But he decided to come to Hong Kong for the first time because, the Belt and Road Initiative was very important for his business.

“The protests are not sending a very good image of Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been known to be very peaceful for many, many years,” he said.

Boris Tkatchenko, a project manager from the Greater Paris Investment Agency, said there was a common interest between the French capital and Hong Kong, as they are both seeking to become regional hubs of technology, finance and creative industry.

Asked if he was worried about the protests, Tkatchenko said: “We have the Yellow Vests [in France]. I know that in the media you can believe that it’s catastrophic, but we know that is not. It was important for us to come to Hong Kong to say that we are not afraid.”

Seth Tan Keng Hwee, executive director of Infrastructure Asia, an agency under the Singapore government, said it was in the interests of Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries that Hong Kong’s economy recovers soon.

“Increase in trade and investment in the region will just benefit everyone, so when one of the engines is firing less, it is a pity, because it affects the whole ecosystem,” he said.

At the opening session, Wang Bingnan, vice-minister of commerce, also touched on Hong Kong’s challenges.

“The motherland will always be Hong Kong’s strong backup in the storm,” he said. “The central government supports Carrie Lam in governing the city in accordance with the law. With the central government’s strong support, with the city’s government, and with Hong Kong compatriots’ efforts, I’m sure that the city can overcome the current challenges.”

Hao Peng, chair of the State Council’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, stressed the importance of social stability in his speech.

“To improve people’s well-being and the economy, we need a harmonious and stable social environment,” he said. “Beijing supports Hong Kong in uniting people who love the country, and love Hong Kong, in overcoming this difficult time.”

Ning Jizhe, vice-chair of the National Development and Reform Commission, said that, apart from contributing to the Belt and Road Initiative, Hong Kong must also focus on pushing forward Beijing’s Greater Bay Area project, which aims at turning the city, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into a financial and technology hub by 2035.


Category: Hong Kong

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