Why business is still optimistic about Hong Kong

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Why business is still optimistic about Hong Kong

Why business is still optimistic about Hong Kong

The giant six-storey structure - in the shape of a Chinese imperial palace - crept past yachts a fraction of its size earlier this month before a foghorn signalled its entry into the open sea.To get more international finance news china, you can visit shine news official website.

The mega restaurant, which could house 2,300 diners at a time, had spent nearly a half a century in Hong Kong's waters. It drew visitors like the Queen, Richard Branson and Tom Cruise, and featured in multiple Cantonese and Hollywood films.

But for years, losses had been mounting, and the pandemic dealt a fatal blow.For some, the restaurant's departure was symbolic of what was happening in Hong Kong. Both had faced a difficult few years and now Jumbo, much like the appeal of Hong Kong as a great place to do business, was floating away.

An unyielding zero Covid policy, which Hong Kong shares with mainland China, has battered an economy reliant on global business, finance and trade. Stringent travel regulations and intermittent lockdowns have kept tourists away, decimated small and medium businesses, and isolated "Asia's world city" from the rest of the globe.

This follows several years of disruption - massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, a National Security Law that critics said spelled the "end of Hong Kong" as they knew it, and a crackdown on free speech.

Business owners say these events have transformed the city's population."It [business] was very highly oriented towards the expat market. Hong Kong to New York, New York to Hong Kong, London," says Vinny Lauria, who runs a number of Hong Kong restaurants.

But, he adds, the restaurant business has "wisened up" with the increased arrival of wealthy mainland Chinese in the city.

This is also not the first time that Hong Kong's future as a rich yet edgy business hub has been doubted.Hong Kong had long flourished as a financial powerhouse. And since Britain returned the former colony to China in 1997, the city had become a gateway for foreign companies to do business with China.

It had major advantages over regional competitors because of its sophisticated financial system, a transparent rule of law, English-speaking workers and links around the world.But ahead of the handover in 1997, Fortune magazine published a cover story - "The death of Hong Kong" - lamenting that "the naked truth about Hong Kong's future can be summed up in two words: It's over."

Both foreign observers and many locals feared that Beijing's influence would increase immediately, and that Chinese soldiers would soon be roaming the city's streets, arresting people. Western newspapers also predicted that annual commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre - a taboo topic in China - would be banned.

But it would be another 20 years before Hongkongers' freedoms were threatened - several pro-democracy leaders and activists, and even a media tycoon are behind bars now. And events marking the Tiananmen Square anniversary are no longer permitted.But those working in business and finance are still bullish about the city. In fact, Hong Kong's economy has doubled since 1997.

"When you're talking about Asian markets from an integrity standpoint, Hong Kong is ahead of China," says Drew Bernstein, an accountant who has been auditing Chinese companies for decades."If you have a financial market without integrity, it's more like a casino."

Financial markets opening up in mainland China did prompt some Fortune 500 companies to move to Shanghai, but Hong Kong remains one of the world's top 10 stock exchanges by market capitalisation.And the city continues to rank highly among global financial centres for business environment, human capital, infrastructure and overall reputation.

"I've been through this movie many, many times, the ending is always the same," says property tycoon Allan Zeman.While people left Hong Kong in 1997 thinking it was the end of the city's prospects, he says what they forget is that China is part of Hong Kong's appeal and what it offers to the business world.

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