COVER STORY: A Celebration of HKSAR’s 20th Anniversary

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From left: Stuart Tait (HSBC), Sanjeev Chatrath (Thomson Reuters), US Deputy Consul General Thomas Hodges, USCG Kurt Tong, AmCham Vice Chairman Jack Lange, CE-elect Carrie Lam, AmCham President Tara Joseph, Acting Commissioner of PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tong Xiaoling, HKTB Ambassador Michael Wong, Tay Keng Puang (MassMutual Asia Ltd.), Sean Chiao (AECOM), Fang Lin (FTLife Insurance Co. Ltd.) and Marco Rotondo (Philip Morris Asia Limited).

AmCham hosts a cocktail gala in commemoration of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

By Kenny Lau


The 20th birthday of the HKSAR is an opportunity to celebrate and re-commit to the core values and principles that make the city a unique and essential place in the world, said AmCham Vice Chairman Jack Lange, in his opening remarks at a cocktail gala with hundreds of members and guests, including Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam, U.S. Consul General Kurt Tong and Acting Commissioner of PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tong Xiaoling, in attendance.

“We all have an affection for Hong Kong and a commitment to Hong Kong’s success,” he says. “Americans feel a special affinity for Hong Kong because both places were born out of colonial spirits. We share with many in Hong Kong an enormous optimism and a powerful belief that the rule of law, freedom of expression, free enterprise, open and transparent government will see us through to an even brighter future.”

These core values under the “One Country, Two Systems” framework are key factors that attract U.S. companies and talented people here, says USCG Kurt Tong. “This environment has created the conditions for the American Chamber of Commerce and for American businesses to thrive and contribute to the success of this great city.”

The occasion is also a perfect opportunity to raise Hong Kong’s international profile. “By doing so, we would be able to lay a stronger foundation for Hong Kong’s future,” says CE-elect Carrie Lam whom is described as a very good friend of AmCham and a role model for the civil service for her swift response and resolute style. “This evening, I want to assure that swift response and resolute style will be the hallmarks of the next administration.”

“As the next chief executive, I am duty bound to safeguard those core values and traditional strengths of Hong Kong, not only for a population of 7.3 million but also for the international business community which has taken Hong Kong as a place for doing businesses. Thank you for your faith and confidence that you have in this great city of ours.”

“We’d love to have more U.S. companies using Hong Kong as a place for their regional headquarters and their regional offices…to do business in Hong Kong riding on our nation’s major initiatives under the Belt and Road as well as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Bay Area,” Lam adds.

“I can assure you that my foremost duty is to ensure that the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ will continue to work. And those core values of independence, freedoms, and the rule of law will continue to be Hong Kong’s cornerstone,” she says.

HKSAR’S 20th Anniversary - A Reflection

“When I first came to Hong Kong in 1969, it was a different world. Taxis were black-and-white Mercedes; trams were the old style; and buses were the old-fashioned double-deckers. You didn’t hear Mandarin but only Cantonese. As Americans, we couldn’t go to China or even buy in a Chinese department store.

In 1979, we went to the trade fair when China was opening, and our delegation was invited back to meet with the mayor of Shenzhen – which was then a small place. At the time, it was hard to believe but I think they would prove more realistic than we ever thought.”

- Bob Adams, AmCham Chairman 1979

“AmCham in the lead to 1997 suggested that an international adviser be included in the drafting process of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and it was an exciting process working with CY Leung, Rita Fan and Martin Lee. We also asked for the right to permanent residence for anyone having lived here seven years or longer.

As a lawyer, I was involved in supporting the rule of law. The greatest British legacy, in the history of the empire, is common law. It really is one of Hong Kong’s most significant edges. We played an active role in discussing those issues, and it’s held up fairly well.”

- Gage McAfee, AmCham Chairman 1985

“It was a much slower pace of life in Hong Kong when I arrived in 1974. There weren’t a lot of private cars but a lot of bicycles on Queen’s Road Central. On my first trip to China in 1975, I was woken up by loudspeakers outside the hotel at 6 a.m. denouncing American imperialism. It was a very different U.S.-China dynamic until normalization.

Trade with China was principally based on commodities. Foreign investment and advertising were taboo in China. But we could see a sense of experimentation prior to 1979, and it was the beginning of an extraordinary transformation. Hong Kong just seemed like the best place to be.”

- Tom Gorman, AmCham Chairman 1995

“The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ was a new way of governing, especially for China. The question was whether Hong Kong was going to remain relatively autonomous and conduct its own economic policy. We were cautiously optimistic about the new government, and it was an important message at a time when pessimism was quite strong and dramatic.

An article of Fortune magazine in June 1995 painted a very dark future for Hong Kong, but Hong Kong has been amazingly resilient. That’s one of the many things making this place attractive. We have to keep moving and changing, and we’ve been successful.”

- Mark Michelson, AmCham Chairman 1996

“Hong Kong is a very fast-paced city and seems to change every six months. With the rule of law and free flow of information, it is truly an international city. AmCham has also made a serious and historic contribution to conveying and upholding the key values of free trade, private enterprise, business ethics, transparency and the rule of law.

Hong Kong is not just a typical Chinese city, and its international appeal is unmatched. We should do more to strengthen our foundation by addressing issues such as a widening wealth gap in the city, by promoting key industries, by encouraging innovation and by upholding our strong legal system.”

- Paula DeLisle, AmCham Chairman 2001

“Hong Kong continues to be the amazing city I came to know in 1978. It is a trusted international financial center. The stable government, low taxes and abundant job opportunities make it a desirable place to live and work. The strong legal system here makes it a good place to develop a business.

Opportunities will be those with China’s economic growth as well as those of the region, but there are also challenges including rising costs of living and doing business. Hong Kong has proven to be very adaptable to any change in circumstances. The integration with Mainland China should continue at a pace advantageous to both.”

- Jim Thompson, AmCham Chairman 2002 & 2003

“When I opened the office for my current firm on 1st January 1997, I was very convinced that Hong Kong was going to continue to succeed. Over the past 20 years, it’s been a big roller coaster ride having to deal with extreme circumstances. But Hong Kong has been very resilient, and I foresee a very positive future at least up until 2047.

The ‘One Country, Two Systems’ has been a very successful system, and I’d like to see an extension of the system for another 50 years. It should be sorted out before 2047 so that people remain confident in the rule of law here and in Hong Kong’s institutions.”

- Jon Zinke, AmCham Chairman 2005

“When I moved here in 1996, there was a lot of nervousness about the handover. While the discussion raged, I was personally not that concerned because I was confident in the Basic Law and the greatness of Hong Kong. Five years post- handover, all was well; despite some ups and downs, Hong Kong remained calm politically and prosperous economically.

However, recent events have challenged that calmness and stability. To remain stable and prosperous, we need to focus on Hong Kong and China. As we welcome our new chief executive this July, I am hopeful that Hong Kong will remain a great international city.”

- Steve DeKrey, AmCham Chairman 2008

“Hong Kong has some very distinctive characteristics and factors that set the city apart. It has free trade and a free flow of capital. Multinational companies and industries can come to Hong Kong with the assurance that they will be protected under the rule of law. Its tax system is one of the best and simplest in whole world.

Hong Kong is an attractive place to live, and it’s probably easier to hire talent here than in other places in China. Hong Kong will continue to be the most international city in China. Shanghai’s going to try to catch up, but that’s healthy competition.”

- Rob Chipman, AmCham Chairman 2011

“I see this as a time when Hong Kong has to carve out its role for the next several decades. It’s got the opportunity to become a global financial center, a global logistics center and an innovation hub in the region. Otherwise, Hong Kong might lose its competitive edges as a highly-regarded international city.

Hong Kong has been so successful for so long that it’s sometimes easy to assume it will just continue. Hong Kong’s role in the region has been vital for many years, but if the city doesn’t establish itself for the long term in these strategic areas, then it will risk being just another ordinary city of China.”

- Peter Levesque, AmCham Chairman 2014 & 2015