Hong Kong confirmed Thursday it will host an international banking summit in early November, days after it lifted mandatory quarantine rules for arrivals that have battered the city’s reputation as a business hub.

The city has had a difficult three years, with a sweeping crackdown on political freedoms and the imposition of some of the world’s strictest coronavirus pandemic controls, which have kept the city isolated even as competitors reopen.

Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority Eddie Yue. Photo: Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

The banking summit on November 2 is expected to draw 200 participants, including the group chairmen or Chief Executive Officers of 30 major financial institutions, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).

HKMA Chief Executive Eddie Yue wrote in a blog post that the event would allow guests to “meet their staff and clients in person, and establish new relationships”. 

“For most of them this will only be a short visit and we need to make sure they can meet people, do business and build relationships in the kind of business-as-usual way they expect from a vibrant international city,” Yue added.

The gathering will include panel talks featuring the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, and top executives from HSBC, Standard Chartered, JPMorgan Chase and BlackRock will also attend.

A HSBC branch in Central. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Hong Kong last week scrapped mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers after two-and-a-half years, amid concerns of brain drain and losing business to rivals like Singapore and London, which reopened to the world once their populations were adequately vaccinated.

‘We have to be prepared’

But the city still adheres to a version of China’s zero-Covid strategy and has kept some pandemic restrictions in place, including social distancing, business hours limitations and compulsory masking.

Arrivals in the city no longer have to quarantine in hotels, but they cannot enter restaurants or bars for three days after landing and must undergo regular testing

Those who test positive face being isolated in hotel rooms at their own expense.

Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Hong Kong’s health secretary Lo Chung-mau told Bloomberg TV on Thursday that the city was committed to reopening, but warned that a new virus variant could change that. 

“We have to be prepared. Emerging diseases may come anytime,” Lo said, adding that any further relaxations to virus curbs will be made after reviewing data.

Hong Kong cannot follow the global trend of living with the virus as the city has an obligation not to “cause a major outbreak in the rest of China”, Lo added.

It is unclear if summit participants will be exempt from the restrictions, and the HKMA said Thursday that it was working to “finalise an appropriate set of arrangements”.

Earlier this month, Singapore overtook Hong Kong to become Asia’s top financial centre, according to a major ranking index, and has become a choice destination for regional conferences.

Singapore abandoned quarantine and social distancing rules months ahead of Hong Kong. This weekend the city state will host the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix. 

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