Hong Kong leader on new ownership measures, attract foreign talent

John Lee, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, arrives to deliver his political speech at the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on October 19, 2022.

Paul Young | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee on Wednesday announced plans to attract talent and investment to the Asian financial hub that lost Thousands of residents since the start of the epidemic.

In his first political speech since taking office in July, Lee said the government would allocate HK$30 billion ($3.8 billion) to lure companies into the city, and launch a so-called top talent scheme “to entice talent to pursue their careers in Hong Kong”.

“Over the past two years, the local workforce has shrunk by about 140,000. Aside from nurturing and retaining local talent, the government will proactively search the world for talent,” According to the official text of his speech.

Hong Kong Hang Seng Index It advanced slightly in the early trades but gave up gains before the speech. It was last traded down 1.9% after briefly dropping 2%.

Attracting foreign talent

People with a yearly salary of about $318,000 or more, and graduates from the top 100 universities in the world who have had three years of work experience over the past five years, will be eligible for a two-year permit to “explore opportunities in Hong Kong.”

Lee said that foreigners who enter Hong Kong under talent attraction schemes, buy residential property and become permanent residents, will be able to apply for refunds of the buyer’s stamp duty and the new residential stamp fee for their first property.

housing crisis

Asian financial center

Lee also announced measures aimed at boosting Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a financial center, including facilitating the listing of some companies in the city.

He said the Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Company will review listing rules on its main board of directors next year “to facilitate fundraising for high-tech companies that have not yet met earnings and trading history requirements”.

The government will also develop the technology sector.

Our goal is to attract at least 100 high potential people or actors [innovation and technology] Companies should set up or expand their business in Hong Kong in the next five years,” he said, adding that it could bring in HK$10 billion in investment and job creation.

What is Hong Kong's relationship with China?

Covid policy

Regarding COVID policies, Lee said his government is “doing its best to discuss with the mainland to seek the resumption of normal cross-border travel in a gradual and orderly manner.”

“Our first goal is to implement a ‘reverse quarantine’ in Hong Kong, also known as a ‘pre-departure quarantine’, in which travelers quarantine in Hong Kong before going to the mainland.

Hong Kong was a British colony before it was handed over to China in 1997 to be governed under the “one country, two systems” framework. Hong Kong has been promised 50 years of autonomy and has freedoms other Chinese cities do not, including limited electoral rights.

Hong Kong lifted mandatory quarantine for travelers last month, after nearly two years of Covid-related border control measures. Travelers still need to take multiple Covid tests and monitor their health upon arrival.

Lee, who is loyal to Beijing, was the only candidate in the May elections to replace his predecessor, Carrie Lam. About 1,500 members of the largely pro-Beijing Election Commission voted, and Lee won 1,416 votes to become Hong Kong’s supreme leader.

CNBC’s Jihye Lee and Lee Ying Shan contributed to this report.

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