Over 300 financial leaders and executives joined the Project Citizens Forum to discuss the importance of upholding Hong Kong’s core values in maintaining its role as an International Financial Centre

(Press Release, 15 April 2016) Over 300 people today attended a public forum titled “What Makes Hong Kong An International Financial Centre?” which was held by the Project Citizens Foundation. The speakers of the forum, who are leaders from the financial industry, affirmed the importance for Hong Kong to uphold its long-standing core values and the “One Country Two Systems” in order to safeguard its role as an international financial centre.

The forum took place at the Asia Society today, with distinguished speakers to discuss the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s business environment and the challenges faced by the city from various aspects, namely the financial investment and banking industry, the stock exchange regulations, insurance and fund management.

Speaking at the opening of the forum, T. L. Tsim, Chairman of the Project Citizens Foundation, remarked that Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre depends very much on several institutional advantages. He named four of these: (1) the free flow of money, information and people; (2) the rule of law and an independent judiciary; (3) the use of English in government, in the law courts and the capital market; and, (4) until now, political stability. The Foundation calls on Hong Kong’s financial practitioners and all concerned to cherish and maintain these core values which, together, constitute the four cornerstones of an international financial centre.” Tsim also pointed out that the recent moves of several rating institutions to downgrade Hong Kong’s credit outlook and its ranking of international financial centre are an alarm that Hong Kong’s edge is being undermined.

John Tsang, Financial Secretary of HKSAR Government pointed out in his speech that “Hong Kong’s success is built on the rule of law, extensive business network, sound financial infrastructure, robust regulatory regime, free flow of capital and information, a well-educated and resourceful workforce and an abundance of international talents. The success of businesses and investments counts on the systems that we have put in place, counts on the high level of liquidity in our financial markets, and counts on our transparent regulations which are in line with international standards.” He reiterated that Hong Kong’s tightening linkage with the mainland China is an opportunity rather than a risk.

Speaking at the forum, Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive of HSBC Holdings plc holds hope for Hong Kong’s global competitiveness, saying that Hong Kong can take advantage of the “Belt and Road” initiative to tap the green bond market. “There are some challenges, but countless more opportunities. I truly believe that Hong Kong has nothing to fear and everything to gain.”

Cheah Cheng-hye, Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Value Partners Group singled out economic disparity as a major factor of Hong Kong’s social instability. “The young people think they cannot benefit from the economic growth and the future is unclear. Hong Kong would need to solve the problem since no international financial centre can sustain under an unstable environment.”

On stock market regulation, Anthony Neoh, Former Chairman of the Hong Kong Securities & Futures Commission stated that the problem of the Mainland government in handling the stock market crash is being “too efficient”. It reacted and made decision before obtaining complete market information, and the subordinates then followed suit. By contrast, foreign financial regulators attach importance to informed decision after assessing all systemic risks

Mark Tucker, Group Chief Executive and President of AIA Group believed the stringent regulatory approach of Hong Kong government has consolidated Hong Kong’s role as an international financial centre and regional hub.

At the end of the forum, Anthony Neoh, Cheah Cheng-hye and T.L. Tsim joined George Leung, Advisor, Asia Pacific, The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited in a panel discussion and answered questions raised by the audience. George Leung stated that Shanghai does not connect to the global market as seamlessly as Hong Kong does, so that it has never been seriously regarded as an international financial centre. He held that to sustain the role as an international financial centre, Hong Kong should neither be over-reliant on nor separated from the Mainland.     

 

The Board of Directors of Project Citizens Foundation (From left to right) Edmund Woo Kin-wai, Tony Tsoi, Carol Chen, T.L. Tsim, Anson Chan, Cheung Yuk-tong and Senia Ng.

During Panel Discussion, the participants discussed the factors that make Hong Kong an international financial centre.

John Tsang, Financial Secretary of HKSAR Government

Cheah Cheng-hye, Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Value Partners Group

George SK Leung, Advisor, Asia-Pacific, The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited

T.L. Tsim, Chairman of Project Citizens Foundation