• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:07am
NewsHong Kong
FINANCE

Key Apec meeting switched from Hong Kong to Beijing

City replaced as venue by Beijing in 'rare' move, but speculation that the Occupy Central protest could have triggered the decision is dismissed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2014, 4:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 3:09am

Hong Kong has been replaced by Beijing as the venue for a meeting of Apec finance ministers and central bankers later this year.

The surprise move by the central government, described by one Apec official as "rare", led to wild speculation about the reasons for the switch.

Some politicians linked it to a radical political rally planned to take place in the city's main financial district in the summer.

But the organisers dismissed that theory yesterday.

Officials of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (Apec) said the decision was made because US President Barack Obama asked for the leaders' meeting to be pushed back from October to November.

Obama needed to be at home for campaigning in the US mid-term elections, said an Apec official, who asked not to be named.

The leaders' summit, including a meeting between Obama and President Xi Jinping , will be the highlight of the event.

"Such a big change is indeed rare and we haven't seen it for years. This reflects that China and the US are working really hard to ensure the meeting [between Xi and Obama] will take place," said the Apec official.

We were looking forward to hosting a meeting that is a natural fit for
HK DAVID DODWELL, HK-APEC POLICY GROUP

Because of the change, the meeting of finance chiefs originally scheduled for September - and which would have worked out the broad economic issues for the political leaders to ratify later - has been postponed by a couple of weeks as well. The organisers said this would cause logistical problems, such as hotel bookings, and it would be easier to manage the meetings if all the events were held in Beijing.

About 800 people were expected to attend the Hong Kong meetings. David Dodwell, executive director of the Hong Kong-Apec Trade Policy Group, said the idea of a switch had been circulated for about three weeks.

"Clearly this is upsetting because we were looking forward to hosting a meeting that is a natural fit for Hong Kong," Dodwell said.

Discussions are still taking place on whether it will be possible to keep some of the planned business meetings here to discuss issues of international financial stability and market regulation being tackled by the Asia-Pacific Financial Forum.

The explanation did not stop politicians in Hong Kong from linking it to the Occupy Central movement. The protest group is urging people to block traffic in Central unless "genuine universal suffrage" is guaranteed for the 2017 chief executive election.

Executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong believes the venue switch "could be related" to the movement and said this would affect the city's reputation.

"It is worrying, because you won't know how serious Occupy Central will get … so it could be safer [to hold the Apec meetings in Beijing]," he said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said he was worried the decision could indicate that Beijing was bracing for the worst and may adopt a hardline stance that would be likely to trigger angry protests in the city.

But Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung said the switch was "purely due to co-ordination and time concerns".

He said "only a small amount" had been spent in preparation, with the HK$63 million fund granted for the event still intact.

Macau's chief executive, Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on, said the city's Apec tourism ministers' meeting had received "no notice of changes" and the preparatory work would go ahead.

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This article is now closed to comments

superron
Whether the reason stated is real or not, it is a strategic move indeed.
sjfore
Good riddance. Fewer "free trade" vampires around here will be a breath of fresh air. May they all choke on Beijing smog.
Camel
I just asking if you would still cheering if you are unemployed and facing a uncertain future in this city.
I am pretty sure that many who are writing here are even not HKners themselves. Just some imported workers from abroad who thinks they can decide which direction HK should take.
chaz_hen
Aren't there all sorts of trade fairs going on in Guangzhou, the PRD and HK during October and into early November?
johnwe
It is clear that the reason is the high likelihood of disturbance during the meeting. Never mind the laughable claim that it is due to Obama opting for November, not October. Is Beijing better or HK worse in November than in October?
Lets face it. Though the Occupy Central is supposed to be in July, there is no end date and given the irrationality of the organizers it could still be there in October, or November. The occupiers in London and NY were there for over 6 months.
Moreover, to have Xi and other top Chinese officials here is 90% likely to be seized upon by the local mob radicals to do something stupid not merely once but continuously to embarrass the government. Remember Li Kheqiang's visit?
Why should Beijing risk having chaos and total disorder inside its own borders, on display for the world leaders to snigger over. Not even to save the face of Hong Kong government and officials. The last big meeting of world leaders was wrecked by imported demonstrators and content. It would be intolerable for the trouble to be of domestic origin and a protest against the host government.
If the trouble makers cannot recognize the message of a gift horse, the HK government better be prepared for more and less subtle signs of disapprobation.
SpeakFreely
Is it time for hk to wake up? Singapore in the last 10 yrs without any help from China is already overtaking hk in GDP per capita. People in singapore enjoy bigger space and cleaner air. So, are we really gaining by financially relying on china? If Yes, why are we keep falling behind?
chuchu59
Complacency and being too dependent on the mainland.
pangkf
I don't think that HKers are complacent when we compare with Singaporeans and those Westerners (or even those "wealthy mainlanders". You know nothing about the world. Don't distort and misinterpret.
mengie
to speekfreely: why we are behind Singapore? because of so many radicals like you in hk who cannot think clearly, let alone write correct english like you.
Dai Muff
If you are going to correct the English of others, write correct English. Otherwise you just look stupid.

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