China’s ‘end Covid Zero’ message to Hong Kong’

34
3
China’s ‘end Covid Zero’ message to Hong Kong’

According to multiple people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg asked foreign business chambers in Hong Kong how to revive the isolated financial hub s economy in unprecedented listening sessions weeks before new leader John Lee takes office.

The Liaison Office sent invitations to commerce heads across the city in early June to seek their views on the challenges of operating in Hong Kong and mainland China, the people said. They said that the chambers responded with one overriding message: End quarantine as soon as possible.

The people who represent different chambers said that the meetings marked a major shift from previous exchanges in which officials spoke through translators, with the Chinese side showing genuine interest in understanding the pain points of foreign businesses.

The people said that the mainland officials listened while other staff took notes, making it unclear whether Beijing will act on any of the suggestions. One person who attended one of the meetings said it was conducted in English, lasted 90 minutes and included Wang Danfeng, a key member of the economic department.

According to an email seen by Bloomberg News, the invites included five questions, including one asking for suggestions or advice on how the Hong Kong government could improve the local business environment and others that focused on operations in mainland China.

The Liaison Office didn't respond to a request for comment.

The listening campaign came weeks before Lee takes office on July 1, a move that shows China's concern about poor economic data on both sides of the border.

Lee inherits a financial hub that has been isolated internationally due to Hong Kong's inability to open up to the world, in part due to pressure from the mainland to avoid President Xi Jinping's strict Covid Zero policy on the mainland. Hong Kong's economy contracted 4% in the first quarter, one of its worst performances of the past 30 years, and has seen an outpouring of expatriate talent in places like Singapore.

China s strict Covid Zero policy of mass testing drives and lockdowns has also punished the mainland's economy. The country's economic growth is moving further out of reach from the growth target of 5.5% despite the severe strain from pandemic measures, according to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at an emergency meeting last month.

Hong Kong has drifted from Covid Zero in the last few months, despite China showing no signs of deviating from its pandemic policy. Despite a rebound in cases topping 1,000 daily infections, officials have reduced hotel quarantine from 21 to seven days for vaccinated arrivals and resisted imposing harsh social curbs.

In his first public comments on his pandemic policy, Lee vowed to try to reduce inconveniences for the traveler while saying that he d need to do so without bringing extra risk to the mainland. He said that his government will review mandatory quarantine measures for incoming travelers, and he suggested reducing its length or introducing home isolation.

The Age of Credibility for Central Banks is over, and there is no age of credibility for them.