Trade council boss talks up Hong Kong, brushes off Occupy Central protest plan
Chairman of Trade Development Council woos potential investors on visit to US as he dismisses threat posed by Occupy Central
Trade Development Council chairman Jack So Chak-kwong has reassured companies in the United States about the likely impact of the Occupy Central movement next year.
So said vigorous debate on social issues was a testament to freedom of expression, which was a cornerstone of Hong Kong's success.
While he disagreed with the civil disobedience movement, So, in an interview with Hong Kong journalists in New York, said it would be "just another form of expression of views if it proceeds peacefully".
"I don't see that US companies should worry about the movement," he said. "Occupy Wall Street broke out in 2011, but it was business as usual at the time."
He said the "one country, two systems" policy and Hong Kong's core values were the city's best sales pitch when it came to wooing US investors.
"It doesn't matter if people express different views. It is not good if there is only one voice," he said. "Hong Kong is a part of China, but we enjoy core values such as the rule of law."
So's remarks came soon after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying sent his strongest warning yet to Occupy Central organisers about their planned civil disobedience campaign.
Leung said there was "no possibility" the movement could be lawful or peaceful, and it would not be tolerated by the government or courts. He made the remarks before boarding a flight to New York for an official visit.
Hours after the interview, So issued a statement saying that any expression of different political views should be made under peaceful and lawful circumstances.
The Trade Development Council, the international marketing body that represents Hong Kong's businesses, organised a symposium under the banner title "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong" in New York yesterday and will hold another in Los Angeles on Friday.
Leung was among more than 200 senior government officials and business leaders attending the New York symposium, which was also attended by representatives from more than 1,000 US companies.
"Our trade promotion campaign in the US will highlight the message that Hong Kong is the best choice for US firms tapping the market in mainland China," So said.
So, whose tenure as council chairman is due to expire in September, said the government had yet to discuss whether he would be reappointed.
He said he was prepared for any decision made by the administration.
Meanwhile, Leung and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg exchanged views on the challenges facing New York and Hong Kong, including transport, infrastructure development and environmental protection.
Bloomberg, who visited the Omni Berkshire Place in New York, where Leung is staying, was concerned about how the two cities could work together to tackle climate change.
The mayor is chairman of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of political leaders from the world's biggest cities who are committed to addressing climate change.
Leung, who on Monday began his first official overseas visit since taking office in July last year, attended a breakfast meeting hosted by the Hong Kong Association of New York yesterday.
He then attended a lunch hosted by Sun Guoxiang, China's consul general in the city.