Hong Kong Values China Above International Business, Lam Says
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s ties with mainland China are more important than international business and global travel connections, according to the Asian financial hub’s leader.
“Of course, international travel is important, international business is important, but by comparison the mainland is more important,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a regular press briefing Tuesday, when asked whether the city would more closely align its Covid-19 travel restrictions with those on the mainland.
Foreign business chambers have warned Lam that the city’s lengthy quarantine mandates for returning travelers risk alienating international businesses and driving investment elsewhere. An American Chamber of Commerce survey earlier this year found more than 40% of members said they might leave the city.
Lam’s remarks underscore the city’s relentless focus on reopening the border with mainland China before it reestablishes the global connections that made Hong Kong a key regional travel hub and one of the world’s main financial centers.
Her comments suggest the city will maintain some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 travel policies, even though one of Lam’s advisers told Bloomberg News recently that the city had no clear idea how to satisfy Beijing’s requirements for normalized travel.
Despite having no local coronavirus infections in more than a month, Hong Kong’s pandemic controls still require returning residents to spend as long as 21 days in hotel quarantine, even if they are fully vaccinated. The constantly shifting rules -- including one hastily abandoned attempt at loosening them in August -- have led to travel chaos, frustrating foreign business chambers and residents alike.
The rules stem from the city’s “Covid zero” strategy of stamping out local cases entirely through long quarantines for travelers, tracing measures that see close contacts isolated in government facilities, and the mandatory hospitalization of anyone infected, regardless of symptoms.
Yet as other global cities have opened up, Hong Kong’s flagging vaccination rate has left officials reluctant to loosen its tough measures, which have contributed -- alongside China’s imposition of a national security law -- to a record outflow of residents.
On Tuesday, Lam said the focus on the China border would also benefit international businesses in Hong Kong because they want to more easily send personnel to the mainland
“They also have businesses on the mainland, so it is important for them to be able to cross the border to take care of and attend to their businesses,” Lam said. “So the most important thing is to open the border.”
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