Last month, a significant gathering of hundreds of executives, diplomats, and foreign business chambers took place at Hong Kong’s renowned M+ art museum. Their primary goal was to revitalize the attractiveness of this financial hub. Hong Kong had faced challenges due to the anti-government protests in 2019, followed by the swift imposition of a comprehensive national security law by Beijing in 2020 and three years of strict COVID lockdowns. These events had led to a significant exodus of tens of thousands of people from the city, affecting its reputation and economy.
Adding to these challenges were tensions between China and the United States, along with China’s economic slowdown, which had further impacted Hong Kong’s traditional role as a bridge between the Western world and mainland China, according to diplomats and business leaders. Inaki Amate, Chairman of the European Chamber in Hong Kong, noted that the past few years had created a notably negative image of Hong Kong. This was discussed during the M+ event, where government officials, European Union representatives, and executives from various sectors in the city, including banks, aviation, and the stock exchange, were among the speakers.
Efforts are underway to rebuild connections between the Western world and this former British colony. However, visitors mainly come from the mainland and Asia, and most visa applicants are from China. Executives have pointed out the changing demographics of Hong Kong, with the majority of those approved to work under government talent schemes being mainlanders. Inaki Amate emphasized the need for diversity to restore Hong Kong’s status as the most international city in Asia.
To enhance Hong Kong’s image, Finance Secretary Paul Chan conducted a marketing campaign in European cities in September. Additionally, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is hosting a prominent banking conference in November to showcase the city’s vitality and present its best features to visitors. Despite these efforts, many outsiders still hold a negative perception of Hong Kong, particularly those who have not lived in the city. Tara Joseph, former President of the American Chamber of Commerce, noted that the negative image had persisted since the 2019 protests.