Hong Kong leader: Financial hub’s strengths intact despite protests

Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a since-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 January 2020

Hong Kong leader: Financial hub’s strengths intact despite protests

  • Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a since-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China
  • Carrie Lam confident the Asian financial hub will bridge divisions

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s strengths as a global financial hub have not been undermined by months of pro-democracy protests, the Chinese-ruled city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Monday.
Protests in Hong Kong escalated in June over a since-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. They have since broadened to include demands such as universal suffrage.
Speaking at the opening of a regional financial forum, Lam said the city’s financial system remained stable thanks to lessons learnt since the Asian financial crisis. Lam cited the listing of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. as a boon for other listings by mainland companies.
The city’s “strengths and resilience, just like our financial systems, have not been undermined despite (the fact) that we experienced considerable social unrest and challenges,” Lam said.
She added she was confident the Asian financial hub will bridge divisions, and realize its goals of a reunited community and “flourishing” economy.
Finance Secretary Paul Chan, speaking at the same event, said Hong Kong’s banking system was running smoothly and had ample liquidity despite the city facing “unprecedented” turbulence.
Many protests involved violent clashes between protesters and the police on central streets lined by the city’s tallest towers hosting top finance companies.
Some financial firms have been caught in the middle, with branches of mainland banks repeatedly vandalized as protesters vented their anger at what they perceive as Beijing meddling in the city’s affairs, an accusation denied by Beijing which blames the West for fomenting unrest.
HSBC has also drawn the ire of some protesters who accuse it of being complicit in action by the authorities against activists trying to raise money to support their campaign. HSBC strongly denies any connection.
Hurt by a tariff war between Washington and Beijing, and with protests hurting tourism and retail sales, Hong Kong’s economy has fallen into recession and relies on its finance industry to prevent a deeper downturn.
Chan said the government was considering a more “competitive” tax arrangement to attract private equity funds to the city and further relief measures to prop up the economy, without offering further details.


Big oil feels the heat on climate as industry leader promises: ‘We will be different’

Updated 22 January 2020

Big oil feels the heat on climate as industry leader promises: ‘We will be different’

  • Trump singles out ‘prophets of doom’ for attack
  • Greenpeace told the Davos gathering that the world’s largest banks, funds and insurance companies had invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal

LONDON: Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg slammed inaction over climate change as the global oil industry found itself under intense scrutiny on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The teenage campaigner went head to head with US President Donald Trump, who dismissed climate “prophets of doom” in his speech.
She in turn shrugged off the US president’s pledge to join the economic forum’s initiative to plant 1 trillion trees to help capture carbon dioxide.
“Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough,” Thunberg said. “It cannot replace mitigation. We need to start listening to the science and treat this crisis with the importance it deserves,” the 17-year-old said.
The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum was dominated by the global threat posed by climate change and the carbon economy.
The environmental focus of Davos 2020 caps a year when carbon emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high, and the devastating effects of bushfires in Australia and other climate disasters dominated the news.
Oil company executives from the Gulf and elsewhere are in the spotlight at this year’s Davos meeting as they come under increased pressure to demonstrate how they are reducing their carbon footprint.
“We are not only fighting for our industry’s life but fighting for people to understand the things that we are doing,” said Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental, the US-based oil giant with extensive oil operations in the Gulf. “As an industry when we could be different — we will be different.”

‘Planting trees is good, but nowhere near enough,’ activist Greta Thunberg told Davos. (Shutterstock)

She said the company was getting close to being able to sequester significant volumes of CO2 in the US Permian Basin, the heartland of the American shale oil industry which is increasingly in competition with the conventional oil producers of the Arabian Gulf.
“The Permian Basin has the capacity to store 150 gigatons of CO2. That would be 28 years of emissions in the US. That’s the prize for us and that’s the opportunity. People say if you’re sequestering in an oil reservoir then you are producing more oil, but the reality is that it takes more CO2 to inject into a reservoir than the barrel of oil that it makes come out,” Hollub said.
The challenge Occidental and other oil companies face is to make investors understand what is happening in this area of carbon sequesteration, she added.
The investment community at Davos is also looking hard at the oil industry in the face of mounting investor concerns.
Greenpeace told the Davos gathering that the world’s largest banks, funds and insurance companies had invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal. It accused some of these groups of failing to live up to the World Economic Forum goal of “improving the state of the world.”