Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam seeks support of business bosses at Government House gathering

Tony Cheung

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has urged foreign and local business leaders to join her in upholding the rule of law and have confidence in the city, as she seeks to galvanise support amid the ongoing protests triggered by her controversial extradition bill.

During a lunch at Government House with senior officials and more than 40 businessmen, Lam also pledged to spare no efforts in dealing with disputes in society, and to introduce measures to help companies cope with the risks of an economic downturn.

But a business leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the chief executive did not elaborate on how she would solve the current political crisis gripping the city.

The lunch came a day after the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (AmCham) urged Lam to immediately deal with the causes of recent violence and political deadlock, which its members said had taken a toll on business confidence and Hong Kong’s image as a safe place.

Riot police fire tear gas at anti-government protesters in the Western district of Hong Kong. Photo: Felix Wong

The Chief Executive’s Office revealed the details of the lunch on Tuesday night, and said the purpose of the meeting was to exchange views on the city’s challenges and opportunities to formulate measures in the upcoming Policy Address, which is expected to be announced in October.

“Mrs Lam said that due to the China-US trade friction and uncertainties in the external environment, Hong Kong’s economic momentum has weakened in recent months, with only a modest growth of 0.6 per cent in the first quarter of this year and no room for optimism for the second quarter and the entire year,” the Chief Executive’s Office said in a statement.

“She said that the government … will introduce measures in a timely manner to help companies cope with the economic downside risks.”

Protesters, officers clash outside police station over riot charges

Lam also said the disputes in society in recent months are not conducive to Hong Kong’s continued development.

“Emphasising that the rule of law is the cornerstone of the city’s success and violence is not a solution to any problem, she expressed the hope that various sectors would jointly uphold the rule of law in Hong Kong,” the statement continued.

“She pointed out that everyone should continue to have confidence in the city and she firmly believes that with the concerted efforts of various sectors, Hong Kong would find opportunities amid difficulties.”

The office said Lam hosted the lunch for the chamber representatives for the first time at Government House this year, to express her gratitude to the business sector for their long-standing support.

She sounded confident, and repeated that we should look forward. I think the atmosphere was friendly

Local business leader

A local business leader who attended the gathering said the meeting lasted for about 90 minutes. Lam spent the first 15 minutes giving a speech, and spent the remaining time sitting at five different tables to chat with all her guests.

“She sounded confident, and repeated that we should look forward. I think the atmosphere was friendly and the business leaders clapped their hands on several occasions,” he said.

“Some foreign business people also seemed to understand that Hong Kong’s problems are complicated, and mass protests are not unique to the city.”

Top officials from Lam’s cabinet, including Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, as well as the justice, financial, commerce and technological ministers, attended the gathering.

The head of one of the city’s largest business chambers said Lam called for the sector to support Hong Kong.

Extradition bill protesters march along Castle Peak Road in Yuen Long. Just one of the numerous protests that have rocked the city since the start of June. Photo: Sam Tsang

He said the city’s leader had again admitted that her administration’s assessment of the public’s reception to the bill had been poor.

“She called on the business chambers to have faith in Hong Kong, and promised the government would strengthen support for smaller companies,” said the prominent official, who attended the lunch.

“She said Hong Kong’s economy was not in a good shape because of the US-China trade war, and global economic headwinds.”

Hong Kong is expected to release it’s preliminary gross domestic product figure for the second quarter of this year on Wednesday.

The business leader said most foreign and local chambers attended the lunch, at which they expressed worries that the ongoing anti-government protests would eat into the city’s competitive edge.

“The protests might give a perception that Hong Kong is not safe, which in turn may hurt investment confidence and the city’s competitiveness,” he said, adding the protests had already taken a toll on the hospitality and tourism sectors.

“The business sector generally dares not to speak up their opposition to the protesters, fearing what they say may end up in backlash.”

This article Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam seeks support of business bosses at Government House gathering first appeared on South China Morning Post

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