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PolyU Promotes Hong Kong as a Gateway to the Belt and Road Countries

To tap into the emerging opportunities in the Belt and Road (B&R) region, and capitalize on Hong Kong's role as the super connector, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) organized a seminar themed "Hong Kong as a Gateway to the Belt and Road Countries: Perspectives from Regional Leaders" on 31 May 2019.

The seminar invited renowned business leaders and professionals to share news about latest Belt and Road developments, discuss economic and political challenges, exchange business intelligence, and stimulate forward-looking global strategies.

Dr Miranda Lou, Executive Vice President of PolyU, opened the seminar, emphasizing PolyU's determination to promote professional advancement and knowledge transfer for B&R development, as well as highlighting PolyU's strategy of collaborating with governments, professional bodies and stakeholders in this endeavor.

Regarding the current development of the Belt and Road Initiative, Mr Ajith Nivard Cabraal, the 12th Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, reckoned that the Initiative has achieved a fair degree of progress from an international perspective, and more projects would be completed and benefits realized in domestic contexts in the next few years.

In addressing the "debt trap" concern arising from China's port investment in Sri Lanka, Mr Cabraal pointed out that only eight percent of Sri Lanka's international debt is held by China, which is much lesser than the loans from other international financial institutions. Sri Lanka's B&R related debt is manageable, and has minimal impact on the country's development.

Mr Cabraal expressed the view that China enterprises have good reputation for constructing infrastructures quickly yet on time, making Chinese contractors a top choice for developing countries. He further recommended that Chinese enterprises put more effort into engaging with domestic communities and advocating what long-term benefits infrastructure would bring, thus getting the local public's buy-in for B&R projects.

Mr Michael Ross, Vice Chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group, indicated that the Belt and Road Initiative is a great idea proposed by China. Charoen Pokphand Group now takes part in Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Development Plan, in collaboration with Chinese enterprises for railway construction. It is utmost important to utilize these new infrastructures for developing new industries, putting more business factors into the new economic equation.

"Idea Exchanges, Joint Construction, Benefit Sharing" are three key principles for the Belt and Road investments stressed by Mr Ross. It is crucial to forge partnership with local entities for knowledge sharing and risk mitigation. Hong Kong professionals should follow in major Chinese enterprises' footsteps as regards Belt and Road investment.

Mr Wang Bing, Deputy Chief Executive of Bank of China (Hong Kong) Limited (BOCHK), shared details about China infrastructure and trade activities in the Belt and Road region, and highlighted what notable impact B&R projects had made on local economies, in terms of job creation, connectivity improvement and energy provision. To ensure environmental sustainability, the Chinese government has promulgated high-standard regulations governing "green finance". The company will strictly adhere to three principles – “Transparency, International Standard, Economic Viability” – governing their Belt and Road projects.

BOCHK, also being the headquarters of the Bank of China's ASEAN operations, has established branches in eight ASEAN countries.

Mr Wang invited Hong Kong young professionals to work in Belt and Road, and build a bright future in these emerging regions. 

Ms Heidi Chui, Partner, Stevenson, Wong & Co., highlighted that Hong Kong plays a unique position in resolving international disputes, and Hong Kong's judicial system is friendly to arbitration. In her experience, handling Belt and Road cases required the mentality of "groping for stones to cross the river", and dialogue, compromise and inclusion were essential. Facing unforeseen business risks, she suggested investors should carry out proper due diligence, calculate the risk level before making an investment, and collaborate with the right local partners.

She also encouraged young talent to venture the Belt and Road, and urged them to learn new languages, understand differences in culture and business, and work as teams to embrace new opportunities and tackle challenges.

This seminar had attracted more than 200 attendees from business, professional, public institutions and foreign consulates. Participants enjoyed ample opportunities to interact with business leaders, officials, professionals and executives, finding the event an ideal platform for exploring innovative ideas and meeting future partners.