Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, delivered the second policy address of his term on October 25, 2023, titled “A Vibrant Economy for a Caring Community”. Mr. Lee focused on national security and the business environment, on the low birth rate, and on livelihood ones such as the long waiting times for public flats. “Over the past year, we have led Hong Kong out of the pandemic, with society returning to full normalcy…but I feel that much more can be done and achieved,” Mr. Lee said.
As the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has done for many years, in September it submitted a list of policy recommendations to the chief executive, an exercise that begins with canvassing our 17 committees on issues of importance to the American and international business community in Hong Kong. These are intended as constructive suggestions for the intensive process that goes on within Hong Kong’s policy bureaus and the Office of the Chief Executive in the months leading up to the policy address.
AmCham welcomed the wide range of policies to improve Hong Kong’s competitiveness, including many that were included in the business organization’s policy recommendations. For example, the Chamber’s submission highlighted the importance of attracting a diversified talent pool. With over 90% of the applicants approved through the Top Talent Pass Scheme from mainland China, the Chamber believes that the Hong Kong Government could devise more policies and programs to stimulate participation and attract a new and more diverse pool of talent overseas from other parts of the Indo-Pacific region as well as globally.
- Connecting Hong Kong with neighboring cities through regional partnerships
- Policies to strengthen Hong Kong as a shipping and logistics center, as well as international aviation hub
- Reforms of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s public listing regime and policies to improve market liquidity
- Support for Hong Kong’s film industry
- Introduction of multi-entry visas for travel to mainland China
- Policies supporting SMEs
Understandably, with a sweeping list of pressing priorities, the Chamber noted some of these issues that are yet to be addressed in this year’s Policy Address, which are of concern to AmCham members:
- Measures that support women in business and enable women’s empowerment
- Enhancing international school education
- Developing and sustaining the Insurance industry
- Clarifying Hong Kong’s policy direction on virtual assets and cryptocurrency
- Improving transparency in the commercial leasing sector
AmCham did feel that there could have been more emphasis in the Policy Address on protecting Hong Kong’s “Two Systems” framework, because of its potential impact on international perceptions of Hong Kong. AmCham has always encouraged the government to pay special attention to how various measures and policies may affect the “Two Systems”, such as the rule of law and freedom of expression. AmCham worries that a continuous focus and rhetoric on national security can have knock-on effects on perceptions of visitors and businesses of Hong Kong as a less than welcoming environment. To redress this, the Chamber had made a specific recommendation of establishing a dedicated unit under the Financial Secretary’s Office to assess how government policies may impact international perceptions of the city.
Related to this, Chief Executive John Lee promised to “complete the legislative exercise in 2024 on Article 23 to fulfill our constitutional duty.” He also mentioned that in 2024, a cyber security law will be implemented. The Chamber will be following the consultation of both of these legislations closely, as we believe these can have an impact on business sentiment.
In the next 12 months, AmCham will continue to engage with the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and other stakeholders in providing constructive input with a collective goal of maintaining Hong Kong’s stature as an international business center.