As someone who lived and worked in Hong Kong’s financial markets for over 15 years, I read with concern Stephen Roach’s opinion piece “Hong Kong’s glory days have come to an end” (Opinion, February 13).

It is true that the laissez-faire business environment that Hong Kong is known for — building things irrespective of what the local or central governments are interested in — has gone for good. Now, the authorities are firmly in control.

Yet that does not mean that Hong Kong’s status as a financial centre is dead, nor is its stock market. Quite the contrary — Hong Kong is now at a crossroads, with much opportunity available.

China needs — and importantly, recognises that it needs — a quasi-offshore modern centre to diversify and deepen its financial markets and products. However, the current financial infrastructure in Hong Kong, built over time and maintaining the baggage of a century of evolution, isn’t good enough for these modern needs.

It is now for the Hong Kong government to articulate a position as China’s modern international financial centre, and encourage investment to upgrade its infrastructure. There are many compelling propositions to expand Hong Kong’s enviable existing foundations, such as expanding its unique stock and bond connect systems that allows international and mainland investors direct access to each other’s markets, and deepening its role as a centre of renminbi trading.

Thus far, this vision has been lacking. There has been a singular focus on “national security”, and nothing on carving out Hong Kong’s future position inside China. This message needs to change quickly, and action needs to follow, otherwise Roach’s bleak picture may swiftly become reality. Let’s hope it does not.

Adam Wielowieyski-Ipnarski
Former Managing Director, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, Naxos, Greece

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