The newly sworn-in Convenor of Hong Kong’s Government Council talks on COVID insurance policies, nationwide safety, the trail in the direction of financial restoration and regional integration.
By José Carlos Matias
Regina Ip is a well-seasoned, veteran Hong Kong politician. She served as director of trade and immigration earlier than the handover and was the Secretary for Safety of the Hong Kong Particular Administrative Area by the point of the 2003 large-scale protests in opposition to the primary try and enact a nationwide safety legislation. Ms Ip was later elected to the Legislative Council and has been a member of the Government Council over the previous decade. On July 1, she grew to become convenor of the Government Council, the Chief Government’s high advisory physique. In an interview with Macau Enterprise, Regina Ip expresses confidence within the metropolis’s post-pandemic financial restoration and underlines that whereas Hong Kong helps China’s dynamic Zero COVID coverage; it has developed its personal method to preventing the pandemic, which excludes citywide lockdowns. Trying forward, deeper regional integration and cooperation with Shenzhen, Nansha and the entire of the Larger Bay Space will yield outcomes and produce many alternatives, she anticipates.
You will have turn into convenor of the Government Council with the brand new administration led by newly sworn Chief Government John Lee. What’s your mission for the following 5 years?
Regina Ip (R.I): – Whether or not as convenor or a member of the Government Council, my obligation is to present the Chief Government the very best recommendation obtainable in accordance with the general public curiosity. How does the function of convenor differ from the function of different members? A convenor additionally acts as a conduit between different members and the Chief Government.
The convenor additionally performs a vital function as channel for communication between the Authorities and the enterprise neighborhood and the media, particularly the overseas media.
You’re taking up this function at a pivotal juncture for the SAR as we’re half manner by way of the 50-year interval. What are the primary challenges for Hong Kong?
R.I. – The Chief Government in his slogan mentioned he needs to open a brand new chapter in Hong Kong’s growth. Hong Kong has been battered prior to now few years. First by the riots in 2019, then by the COVID-related restrictions, which have broken our economic system. We’re in a restoration stage. The said mission is to guide Hong Kong to a rebound. My job is to help the Chief Government on this. My mission and that of the entire Government Council is to re-join the world, re-open with the mainland.
In quite a few worldwide media shops, NGOs, specifically amongst some Western governments and politicians, the concept One Nation Two Techniques is broken is firmly entrenched. You certainly disagree with this assertion. What’s your counter argument?
R.I. – The info communicate for themselves. We proceed to have separate authorized, judicial, monetary and financial programs. Now we have a standard legislation system as distinguished from the mainland system, we now have our personal separate foreign money, we now have our alternate charge system, we proceed to have a free-wheeling capitalist economic system, we’re a cultural hub, proceed to be the crossroads between mainland China and the remainder of the world, we now have our personal lifestyle. And whenever you have a look at the best way we cope with COVID, we don’t simply copy; duplicate what the mainland is doing. We take recommendation from the mainland and we, after all, assist the concept of dynamic zero-COVID however in gentle of our expertise of preventing COVID, we now have developed our personal manner of coping with it. Our separate system is alive and nicely. The info communicate for themselves.
Those that solid a sceptical eye on it emphasize the affect introduced by the nationwide safety legislation, adopted in 2020, and the reform of the electoral system for the Legislative Council in 2021. How do you regard this?
R.I. – They developed this narrative due to the political bias, however for those who speak to the expatriates, businessmen in Hong Kong, no one is anxious in regards to the nationwide safety legislation. Their fundamental concern is our quarantine necessities. At any time when I’ve conversations with the Overseas Correspondents Membership or chambers of commerce, the burning query is when are we going to maneuver to “zero+7” – when can we be quarantine free?
Individuals who reside in Hong Kong know that with out the nationwide safety legislation, we’d nonetheless be in turmoil. They imagine of their hearts that the nationwide safety legislation put an finish to the riots that victimised us in 2019. The riots restricted and broken our freedoms. We weren’t free to exit on weekends, we weren’t free to talk out. If we didn’t assist the pan-dems [‘pro-democracy’ opposition], we might be overwhelmed up. Individuals who spoke Putonghua have been overwhelmed up. We might not be capable of have actual freedom and train our rights with out the nationwide safety legislation. These info are crystal clear, and the expats dwelling in Hong Kong realize it of their coronary heart.
Macau has lately launched a 45-day session on the modification to the town’s nationwide safety legislation geared toward bringing the laws extra according to the Hong Kong legislation. What’s your touch upon this growth?
R.I. – We should congratulate Macau for getting forward of us in implementing Article 23 of the Fundamental Regulation. Macau succeeded in enacting native laws, in regulating Article 23 in 2009, prohibiting seven nationwide safety offenses. However in our case, after the 2019 riots, the mainland authorities helped us to shut the hole and launched new offenses like native terrorism and collusion with overseas forces. These are offences usually are not in your present legislation. So there’s a case for Macau authorities to review what we (Hong Kong) have already got. Nationwide safety laws is one thing that each territory must hold below overview due to new challenges. Singapore enacted new laws final yr to cope with overseas interference. The UK has additionally up to date its nationwide safety laws. So I feel all of us should hold new challenges below overview and introduce new laws.
The dynamic zero-COVID coverage has been extensively questioned abroad and likewise in a number of sectors in Hong Kong. Is Hong Kong departing from it? What steps can we count on by way of reopening the town to the world within the coming months?
R.I. – Our aim, after all, is to re-join the world and divulge heart’s contents to the remainder of the world and to reopen our quarantine-free journey to the mainland. Our method is predicated on science and knowledge.
Our well being minister was in a position to transfer to three+four″after analysing the information. Any additional discount must be based mostly on knowledge. The hospital authority is implementing contingency measures to alleviate the stress, comparable to mobilising the non-public hospitals to offer beds, reactivating our neighborhood therapy centre, and so forth. So what we want is a coverage that works for all, to guard the aged, infants, and youngsters, not only for the enterprise neighborhood. After all, we’re conscious of the significance of quarantine-free worldwide journey for our standing as a enterprise hub, however we additionally must take care of the aged and really babies. I feel we’re sticking to this method.
When do you count on the common quarantine-free stream of individuals between Macau and Hong Kong to be resumed? Tips on how to reignite cooperation between Macau and Hong Kong?
R.I. – I feel Macau fully follows the mainland mannequin of dynamic Zero COVID with citywide lockdowns, flash lockdowns at any time when you might have an area outbreak. In Hong Kong, we don’t do flash lockdowns or citywide lockdowns. We solely do localised lockdowns, for instance on public housing estates. Now we have been making an attempt to battle COVID in our personal particular manner, as a result of our mannequin is totally different from the mainland. The mainland is unable to divulge heart’s contents to us but. The Chief Government is working exhausting to discover a mannequin to open up with the mainland. Now we have to bear in mind the [COVID] dangers that we could export to Macau or Shenzhen. So, as quickly as we develop a mannequin appropriate for Shenzhen, we can reopen to Macau. I miss going to Macau to spend a vacation and benefit from the great resorts and eating places. I hope that day will come quickly.
Chambers of commerce and the enterprise neighborhood have been expressing considerations over the exodus of expertise. How anxious are you about this pattern? What may be accomplished for Hong Kong to stay engaging to worldwide abilities, additionally contemplating the elevated regional competitors?
R.I. – Now we have seen waves of emigration. Persons are free to decide on the place they need to reside. I’ve no drawback with that. The hot button is the flexibility to proceed to draw high individuals, and we’re in a worldwide competitors for expertise. I feel Hong Kong’s outflow has been aggravated by the extremely aggressive insurance policies launched by some nations. For instance, Nice Britain broke its personal promise within the Memorandum on Nationality signed in September 1984 that it could not give BNO (British Nationwide Abroad) passports to youngsters born after July 1 1997. Now they’re breaching their very own dedication, providing BNO passports to Hong Kong individuals born after June 30, 1997. Up to now, favorite locations comparable to Canada and Australia all had a factors system immigration coverage. Now Canada is providing entry so long as you might have a university diploma. So we now have to allow our immigration insurance policies to draw high expertise. The Chief Government is engaged on it. He has mentioned that we can entice high expertise and I imagine he’ll unveil a bundle of measures within the upcoming Coverage Deal with.
Along with attracting expertise, bringing recent overseas direct funding can also be seen as a should.
R.I. – Hong Kong has accomplished remarkably nicely by way of facilitating the stream of funds as a result of we now have no capital controls. Now we have a totally convertible foreign money. We’re a high wealth administration centre. We handle trillions of . So I’m not anxious in any respect about cash flowing into Hong Kong. Now we have a number of instruments in place comparable to inventory join, bond join, and connecting Hong Kong’s world capital markets to China’s capital markets. We’re nicely positioned
Overseas direct funding by way of investing in new gear, constructing new factories is a separate matter. We’re additionally nicely positioned. For example, within the Northern Metropolis plan, which is geared toward accelerating our integration with the Larger Bay Space , we shall be constructing an enormous tech pole, a expertise growth centre. The land shall be obtainable, becoming a member of Hong Kong and Shenzhen in attracting high expertise.
When it comes to regional cooperation, one of many key initiatives for Hong Kong is the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Fashionable Service Business Cooperation Zone. What can one count on from this mission?
R.I. – The Chief Government shall be unveiling particulars on this within the upcoming Coverage Deal with. However in Carrie Lam’s Coverage Deal with final yr, there have been plans on Qianghai, associated to developing a brand new Hong Lengthy-Shenzhen western rail hyperlink to Qianghai. We can have new infrastructure in place enhancing the hyperlinks with Shenzhen and Larger Bay Space. The shall be in place, however we additionally want different measures facilitating the motion of individuals—at present hindered by COVID restrictions—the motion of capital, relying on mainland China’s capital controls and enabling Qianghai to turn into a contemporary companies centre.
Contemplating that some sectors stay considerably sceptical on the subject of GBA, find out how to additional have interaction and mobilize Hong Kong’s enterprise neighborhood and younger individuals on the subject of the GBA integration mission?
R.I. – I feel the enterprise neighborhood could be very excited in regards to the Larger Bay Space (GBA). Primary, the GBA allows Hong Kong to have an even bigger market. We’re speaking about an 86-million inhabitants. Quantity two is an amazing supply of sources for Hong Kong and of job alternatives for younger individuals as a result of our financial construction is slim, as you understand. We’re 93 per cent companies and principally enterprise and professional companies. Our authorities has been working with the Shenzhen and Guangdong authorities to offer internships, subsidizing our younger individuals to work within the GBA and having incubation centres for start-ups
Nansha has lately unveiled a brand new blueprint for cooperation with Hong Kong and Macau. What’s in it for the Hong Kong SAR and the way do you foresee this pathway for cooperation?
R.I. – I visited Nansha 5 – 6 years in the past, and there have been two Hong Kong banks working there. The motivation for Hong Kong banks to arrange store there’s that they might promote their funds to the entire nation. At the moment, it was fairly quiet as a result of the world was too small. Now Nansha has vastly expanded its geographic space, and so they have offered loads a taxation and different incentives for Hong Kong companies and professionals to maneuver there. In order that they need to improve their companies, and Nansha additionally offers enterprise alternatives for Hong Kong firms. There are a number of alternatives for us to discover in Nansha.
-How do you regard the prospect for growth of the Guangdong-Macau In-depth Cooperation Zone in Hengqin? What may be the function of Hong Kong?
R.I. – Hengqin is a really attention-grabbing mode, as a result of by saying a second line – a brand new border checkpoint—in a manner, the Macau space has been expanded by 106 sq. kilometres, due to the central authorities’ assist. That is one thing we are able to be taught from, the Macau-Hengqin cooperation mannequin. We will additionally work extra intently with Shenzhen for extra land and alternatives to start out new companies and have extra various job alternatives.
When President Xi Jinping visited Hong Kong to preside over the oath of workplace of the brand new administration, he delivered a speech during which he burdened that “Hong Kong ought to earnestly tackle individuals’s considerations and difficulties in day by day life and ensure that all residents in Hong Kong share extra totally and pretty within the fruits of growth”. What’s the importance of those proposals put forth by the President?
R.I. – One new level raised by President Xi that was not raised 5 years in the past is the connection between the federal government and the markets. He urged we should always recalibrate our relationship, combining the benefits of an efficient authorities with these of an environment friendly market. My very own understanding is that though we’re a free market economic system and we now have been voted because the freest economic system on this planet many instances, no economic system is totally free. All governments must step in now and again. From my expertise, a authorities must step in when there’s a market failure. For instance, when the market was not in a position to present housing for victims of fireside, the Hong Kong authorities wanted to step in within the 1950s to construct public housing for the tens of 1000’s of fireside victims. When the markets turn into too grasping, creating too many dangers on the expense of the buyer, the federal government additionally must step in to control and management the dangers and to ensure that the markets don’t turn into grasping. Or when the markets turn into too anti-competitive, when there are monopolies, the federal government additionally must step in. Now we have to make the markets fairer for everyone. Now we have to ensure the markets work nicely for everybody, not simply the massive guys, but additionally the SMEs, the little individuals. I feel that is the message conveyed by President Xi.