Our Opinion: 2021

Hong Kong’s faltering reputation

Hong Kong thinks of itself as the world’s commercial gateway to China and the rest of Asia. But tough border restrictions, including harsh mandatory quarantine periods of up to 21 days, even for vaccinated visitors, are putting that reputation at risk. While other business centres learn to live with Covid-19, Hong Kong is prioritising reopening its border with mainland China. That means the territory is following Beijing’s ‘zero Covid-19 approach’ to pandemic control.

The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a financial lobby group, has warned that Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre is increasingly at risk along with its long-term economic recovery and competitiveness. Long quarantine periods make it hard to do business and reduce the city’s appeal to top talent. Half of Hong Kong’s big global banks are considering moving some staff and operations out of the city.

Hong Kong has suffered just 213 Covid-19 deaths in a population of more than
seven million. But its successful pandemic management now risks backfiring. The US Chamber of Commerce says that more than 40% of its members in Hong Kong are considering leaving.

As rival Singapore begins to reconnect with the global economy, Hong Kong could lose out.