Business

HK leader says financial hub’s strengths intact despite protests

HONG KONG : Hong Kong's strengths as a global financial hub have not been undermined by months of pro-democracy protests, the Chinese-ruled city's Chief Executive Carrie Lam said yesterday.

Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a since-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Protesters have since broadened their demands to include universal suffrage.

Speaking at the opening of a regional financial forum, Ms Lam said the city's financial system remained stable thanks to lessons learnt since the Asian financial crisis. Ms Lam cited the listing of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding as a boon for other listings by mainland companies.

The city's "strengths and resilience, just like our financial systems, have not been undermined despite (the fact) that we experienced considerable social unrest and challenges", Ms Lam said.

She added she was confident the Asian financial hub will bridge divisions and realise its goals of a reunited community and "flourishing" economy.

Finance Secretary Paul Chan said Hong Kong's banking system was running smoothly and had ample liquidity despite the city facing "unprecedented" turbulence.

Many protests involved violent clashes between protesters and the police on central streets lined by the city's tallest towers hosting top finance companies.

Some financial firms have been caught in the middle, with branches of mainland banks vandalised as protesters vented their anger at what they perceive as Beijing meddling in the city's affairs - an accusation denied by Beijing, which blames the West for fomenting unrest.

Mr Chan said the government was considering a more "competitive" tax arrangement to attract private equity funds to the city and further relief measures to prop up the economy, without offering further details. - REUTERS

BUSINESS & FINANCE