Hong Kong's next leader John Lee says city faces challenges opening China border

Mr John Lee said there are "a lot of challenges and difficulties" to overcome before travel with the mainland can resume. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong's next leader John Lee said the financial hub faces difficulties before it can reopen the border with mainland China, after returning from his first meeting with President Xi Jinping since being selected to run the financial hub earlier this month.

Mr Lee said he told Premier Li Keqiang there are "a lot of challenges and difficulties" to overcome before travel with the mainland can resume. "I will start seeking communication with the mainland side, to explain the Hong Kong situation to them," Mr Lee said on Tuesday (May 31) at a press conference at Hong Kong International Airport, held shortly after he touched down from Beijing.

Separately, the former policeman stated that he still has no short list of candidates for his cabinet that he can disclose but has shared his thinking process with Xia Baolong, the top mainland official in charge of the Chinese territory.

During Mr Lee's four-day trip to Beijing he received his official appointment letter from Mr Li - the final formality before taking office on July 1.

On Monday, Mr Xi praised Lee for defending national security and upholding stability, and stressed the central government's commitment to the "one country, two systems" principle governing Hong Kong.

The former chief secretary will be sworn into office on July 1, the 25th anniversary of the former British colony's return to Chinese rule. He'll face pressure to restore business confidence in the wake of the city's restrictive hotel quarantine rules, address the housing crisis, and manage Covid-19 policy as Hong Kong seeks to balance the demands of China's zero-tolerance approach with the business community.

All eyes are watching if Mr Xi will come to Hong Kong for the anniversary, which would mark the first time he will have left mainland China since January 2020. Mr Lee said he "doesn't have any information on this".

Separately, Bloomberg reported that the lobby group representing all airlines flying in and out of Hong Kong is pushing the government to cut the hotel quarantine period for travellers to three days and wants pre-flight Covid-19 tests scrapped, according to people with knowledge of the outreach.

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