BANGKOK - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Friday (Nov 29) expressed confidence the city will bounce back from its current difficulties.
"Despite the social unrest, I wish to assure our Thai friends that Hong Kong's fundamentals, including our unique strengths under 'one country, two systems', our rule of law and independent judiciary remain strong," the Hong Kong Chief Executive said at a press conference at Government House.
"I and my government are listening to our people, with a view to resolving some deep-seated problems in Hong Kong through dialogue. I have every confidence that Hong Kong can bounce back as we always do," she added.
Mrs Lam was on a one-day mission to woo investors and promote bilateral trade with Thailand. She signed a number of memorandums of understanding with Deputy Thai Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Friday morning on bilateral trade with a focus on innovation, creativity, finance, human resources development and start-ups.
Both sides also held exploratory talks on the Thailand-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The FTA between Hong Kong and Asean came into force on June 11.
Asean is Hong Kong's second-biggest trading partner in terms of merchandise trade but is fourth when it comes to services. Hong Kong is Thailand's ninth-largest trading partner, with total trade volume of US$15.47 billion (S$21.13 billion) last year.
Hong Kong's economy already grew at a sluggish pace by only 0.5 per cent in the first half of 2019, but has taken a nosedive in the second half with a 2.9 per cent year-on-year contraction in the third quarter due to the escalating US-China trade war as well as the continuing anti-government protests in the city.
In September, retail sales went down by about 20 per cent, with tourist arrivals plunging by a whopping 34 per cent year on year.
At the press conference on Friday, Dr Somkid voiced strong support for the embattled Hong Kong leader, saying Thailand had confidence in Mrs Lam's leadership.
This was not the first time the Thai deputy prime minister had publicly backed her amid the crisis in the territory. On Oct 24, while in Hong Kong, he was photographed giving her a bouquet and telling her that Thailand would remain the city's true friend.
Mrs Lam on Friday in turn called Dr Somkid a good friend and a friend of Hong Kong, saying "he has always been supportive of me".
Hong Kong's Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau, who was part of Mrs Lam's delegation, was also optimistic about the current political and economic situation in Hong Kong, saying businesses were running as usual despite the ongoing unrest.
"The government has been trying every effort to bring the society back to normal. While having a difficult time, economic fundamentals remain the same. Hong Kong remains a city where we welcome businesses," Mr Yau said.
"We're also seeing some prospects of reconciliation, and the calming down of things as evidenced by the smooth and peaceful completion of the major election at the district level," he added.
Mr Yau was referring to the local elections on Sunday which pro-democracy candidates won by a landslide, capturing almost 90 per cent of 452 seats and sweeping 17 out of 18 districts.