As Hong Kong began to emerge from the restrictions of the Covid-19 era, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and presenting sponsor Meta organized “Onward Hong Kong,” a 10-month, 10-session series of panel sessions examining Hong Kong’s next 25 years at the anniversary of the first 25 years after the handover.
The panels brought together over 50 businessmen and women, government officials and experts to “write” Hong Kong’s next chapter. As an exercise in public policy and public affairs, the ambitious series sought to identify issues from multiple perspectives ranging from Hong Kong’s global positioning and role as an international finance center, to new infrastructure projects, investment in technology and innovation, how to support young entrepreneurs, sustaining Hong Kong’s emerging status as a hub for the arts, creative industries and sports, and navigating the risks and opportunities of regional organizations including the Greater Bay Area, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and the US Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
Although the events were closed to the public and under Chatham House rules, as the first flagship program under AmChamHK president Eden Woon, it was seen as a bellwether event for the Chamber. It was the first in-person event since 2020, when most meetings were forced to be remote during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The opening keynote was given by the then acting commissioner of the Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, Yang Yirui, who thanked AmChamHK for its contributions to fostering closer relations between the US and China and called on business to build confidence in the sustainability of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that governs Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty.
Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings and one of the speakers at the concluding session on June 14, 2023, described the series as “a breath of fresh air.” He told the South China Morning Post that it showed AmCham HK had the goodwill to help the city’s economic recovery after the pandemic and the and 2019 social unrest, despite ongoing tensions between China and the US.
While the questions raised by the series and its speakers, panelists and moderators are as relevant today as last year, there were few answers. Most agreed that international businesses will need to navigate geopolitical risks, US-China tensions and technological disruption for years to come. When there are opportunities, Hong Kong must be able to grasp them. Its prosperity lies in the success of China, but it needs to preserve its core values as an international business hub, strengthen its competitiveness and provide greater social mobility for all, particularly young people.