Hong Kong’s Good Perception may Benefit Belt & Road Initiative, but Beijing was Called to Give Freer Hands

BY SILVI WRITER

 

In addition to its strengths in providing high quality professional services, Hong Kong enjoys a better perception than the Chinese mainland in international business community.

This is an important advantage that Beijing could leverage, especially when the Belt & Road Initiative meets headwinds in various countries in recent months.

But Beijing is called to give the special administrative city freer hands to unleash its potential to be a true “super connector” of the BRI.

This year marks the five anniversary of the BRI, which is considered a baby project of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the international arena.

But the BRI has met some unprecedented challenges recently, as some key projects have shrank or even been cancelled in China’s neighboring countries like Myanmar and Malaysia for example. Some foreign governments have concerns about heavy debts that may be caused by Chinese loans to finance major infrastructure projects.

In addition, Chinese companies investing abroad have often been complained for their weakness in management and lack of respect for local rules.

But things could be different if some overseas project were led by Hong Kong companies, which enjoy better perception in the international business community, according to Antony Leung Kam-chung, Hong Kong’s former financial secretary.

50012407contentPhoto1Speaking to the CGCC World Chinese Entrepreneurs Summit on Thursday, Leung shared the views of a former finance minister of a Central Asian country, who had told him Chinese firms were having troubles in the region for reasons listed above, despite of China’s rising appetite for projects in the region, which lies on the ancient Silk Road.

Instead of pushing the State-Owned Enterprises to invest heavily abroad, Beijing should consider the alternative option of how to motivate Hong Kong companies to take the lead in key projects along the Belt and Road.

Hong Kong has been striving hard to become a “super connector” of the BRI. Its government has, in recent years, brought local business delegations to various foreign countries in an effort to promote the initiative.

“Hong Kong, which has been rated the world’s freest economy for 24 consecutive years, is a platform that not only promotes its advantages in professional services, but also facilitates the free flow of resources from the mainland and overseas,” Gu Shengzu, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told the Summit.

 

City should be given freer hands

At the same time, Beijing is also suggested to give freer hands to Hong Kong, which was guaranteed a high degree of autonomy as part of the handover to China in 1997.

“Hong Kong now has to integrate into the national development… But sometimes, people have the impression that one country has been emphasised more often than two systems,” Leung said, referring to the principle of “one country, two systems” of governing the special administrative region.

He added that this approach existed in different sectors, such as education, and said the city appeared to be taking part in fewer international conferences in that area in recent years.

There have been “misconceptions” internationally regarding the local legal system in Hong Kong, noted the city’s former justice chief Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung SC, according to the South China Morning Post.

Speaking at the summit, Yuen said he heard people from the United States and Singapore telling others that if they were ever involved in a commercial dispute with a mainland company they should never “proceed to arbitration or resolve the disputes in Hong Kong”.

Yuen dismissed such ideas as “misconceptions” and stressed his position that Hong Kong enjoyed judicial independence, and all lawsuits were handled professionally despite the city being part of China.

Clarifying these misconceptions was important, he added, when discussing the potential of turning Hong Kong into an international arbitration centre for the more than 60 countries and regions included the BRI.

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