The CEO has held the post in Hong Kong since 2017, and her tenure has coincided with a new national security law and since the pandemic, tough measures to try and contain the outbreak.
Outgoing Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has warned that the Asian city-state cannot function as a financial centre if quarantine rules remain, according to Bloomberg.
“The border control measures have really made people very impatient," Lam told CNBC in an interview, later cited by the news service. “Of course, they’ve undermined Hong Kong’s status as a hub.”
“If you cannot travel freely to other places and into the mainland, how could you be a hub?" she was quoted as saying.
Such comments appear unusually blunt from an individual whose tenure coincided with Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in 2020 following local protests in Hong Kong about extradition laws. Hong Kong’s status as a legally autonomous jurisdiction under the terms of the 1997 treaty between China and the UK have been called into question.
The remarks came as Boston Consulting Group predicted in its annual wealth management industry overview, that the former British colony will overtake Switzerland as the largest cross-border financial centre. Hong Kong, mainland China and Macao became more tightly integrated under the Wealth Connect financial structure that took effect in 2021.
In other comments, Lam was quoted as saying: “Once we could bring down the hotel quarantine period or, as some have suggested, replace it with home quarantine measures, I am sure we will be seeing a lot of people coming to Hong Kong.”
Lam is due to leave office on 30 June. She denied that the city-state has become less free during her time in office. In March last year, the Heritage Foundation, a US free market think tank, no longer ranked Hong Kong as a separate jurisdiction in its annual index of economic freedom, merging it with China. For years, China had led the index for a quarter of a century. It had ranked as the freest economy in the world since 1995, until overtaken in 2020. Heritage referred to “intensifying uncertainties related to security issues.”