Carrie Lam sees Hong Kong crackdown helping business outlook

Mrs Lam said Hong Kong now has a better and more stable environment for business to flourish. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Beijing's sweeping crackdown in the city she oversees has strengthened law and order and improved its business environment.

"We now have a better and more stable environment for business to flourish," said Mrs Lam, who spoke in an interview aired Tuesday (Dec 8) at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit. "After a full year of chaotic situations, law and order has been restored."

Pressed about the impact of national security legislation imposed on the city by Beijing in June, Mrs Lam said "a lot needs to be done to address people's anxiety."

Still, she said business sentiment had improved, with investors now focused more on opportunities such as President Xi Jinping's "Belt and Road" infrastructure initiative than on the new security legislation.

"If Hong Kong fared well in the past because of our gateway and our connector role, I would say these two aspects are very promising," she said.

The introduction of the national security legislation led to an international outcry and prompted US sanctions against Mrs Lam and other officials.

Mrs Lam recently said she was collecting "piles of cash" at home because the US measures barred her from basic banking services.

The US announced further sanctions Monday against 14 members of China's National People's Congress, the country's rubber-stamp legislature, over Beijing's actions in Hong Kong.

Mrs Lam said the security legislation ultimately provides a safer and more secure environment for investors.

"We no longer see those chaotic scenes that had been disturbing and disrupting business for a very long time since June last year," she said. "Nothing is more important than the rule of law, which has underpinned Hong Kong's success in recent years."

Despite the reassurances of Mrs Lam and other officials, Hong Kong has continued to be rocked by political upheaval in recent weeks.

Last month, China passed a resolution allowing the disqualification of Hong Kong lawmakers deemed insufficiently loyal - prompting opposition legislators to resign en masse.

Last week, activist Joshua Wong was sentenced to more than a year in prison for leading a 2019 protest outside police headquarters.

Hong Kong residents will continue to enjoy freedoms protected by the city's Basic Law, Mrs Lam told the audience of executives.

"Taken as a totality it's basically still the rule of law," she said in describing the situation in the city.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.