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Published: 00:28, November 30, 2022 | Updated: 09:49, November 30, 2022
After years of depression, Hong Kong is fighting back
By Mark Pinkstone
Published:00:28, November 30, 2022 Updated:09:49, November 30, 2022 By Mark Pinkstone

Hong Kong is back in business. The international finance summit, the rejuvenation of the world-renowned Hong Kong Sevens and a monthlong nonstop list of activities drawing world attention is proof of it.

Ever since the 2019 insurrection riots, Hong Kong has been on the losing end of world respect, mainly because of the negativity of the US propaganda machine through its local proxies. And the severe restrictions imposed under the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help.

The humble beginnings of Hong Kong are well-documented but they did not prevent it from building a successful manufacturing industry, much of which relocated to the Chinese mainland as it offers even cheaper labor and production cost. But rather than folding its tent and calling it quits, the city quickly metamorphosed into an equally successful banking and financial services center and a trade and logistics hub, because Hong Kong thrives on its “can do” spirit, and the word “impossible” does not exist in the lexicon of most Hong Kong residents.

Hong Kong is in an aggressive mood to win back its somewhat dented reputation. Through its overseas representative offices, major advertising and promotional campaigns and with help from the central government, it is wooing the world by displaying its competitiveness, investment opportunities, efficiency and priceless connectivity.

The 200 financial elites who attended the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit in the first week of November were amazed by the dynamism of the city, and according to Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, many said their firsthand experiences in Hong Kong were better than what they expected, given what’s being reported by the international media, some of whose armchair columnists were certain that our best days are over.

But not everybody is rehashing the tired old debunked story of the “Demise of Hong Kong”. “The Hong Kong government’s overarching goal is clear: to establish the narrative that the city has reopened,” said Chris Beddor, deputy China research director of financial services company Gavekal Dragonomics, in an interview with Reuters. In an interview with CNN Business, DBS Hong Kong CEO Sebastian Paredes called the show of support from the city’s top brass “a tangible demonstration that Hong Kong is back”. “The people that have flown into Hong Kong — the global CEOs of insurance firms and private equity companies and banks and the rest — demonstrate that Hong Kong is a very important international financial center,” he said.

Hong Kong is a safe and politically stable city. The civil unrest of 2019-20, instigated by foreign forces to destabilize the country, is a matter of the past as Hong Kong heralds a progressive future.

Following on the heels of the financial summit was the very successful Hong Kong Sevens, which drew in teams from 16 countries, and climaxed by a colorful fireworks display broadcast throughout the world. Hong Kong FinTech Week, which featured more than 250 senior executives of Asia’s and the world’s fastest growing fintech companies, virtual banks and digital-only insurers, artificial-intelligence and blockchain pioneers, payments and lending innovators, was another. And the weeklong Hong Kong Legal Week, which followed, drew in experts from Southeast Asia and other jurisdictions.

The Legal Week highlighted Hong Kong’s unique position as an international arbiter, moderating disputes involving Hong Kong and Commonwealth countries (plus the US) that adopt a common law system and those practicing the civil law system used in the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world.

All of these mega activities are renewable and will be held again next year to maintain the momentum.

It is fine and just to reintroduce activities that feature Hong Kong’s wellness, but what is sadly lacking is a rebound in the tourism industry, crippled by restrictions to ward off the pandemic. This will take time, but there are already signs of recovery. Month on month, in September this year some 66,000 inbound tourists registered a 568.5 percent increase over the same month last year.

But prior to the 2019 riots, tourist arrivals had topped 65 million visitors annually, making the SAR one of the most preferred destinations in the world, spending about HK$300 billion ($38.4 billion) on hotels, shopping and tours.

The disturbances, quickly followed by COVID-19, took their toll, and last year Hong Kong received a mere 250,000 tourists, a drop of 99 percent from its heyday. Several hotels, except those designated as quarantine hotels, suffered badly, and even the 56-year-old Hong Thai travel agency was forced to close its doors.

With the three-day anti-COVID-19 restrictions still in place for visitors, and the damage inflicted by the insurrection violence, it will take a while for Hong Kong to regain its supremacy as a favored tourist destination.

But the false narratives portrayed by certain Western media do not help. Hong Kong is still perceived by some potential Western tourists as a place with “human rights issues”, which the international business community, thank goodness, knows is false. They also know that Hong Kong is firmly on the rebound!

The author is a former chief information officer of the Hong Kong government, a PR and media consultant, and a veteran journalist.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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