Hong Kong’s leader joins China with Xi for membership of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, in a bid to revive the city’s reputation.

Bangkok, Thailand

Hong Kong leader John Lee has arrived at a regional economic summit in Bangkok in the city’s chief executive’s first appearance at an international event in nearly three years – as the Asian financial hub looks to make a comeback.

Lee, a US-sanctioned official who led Hong Kong through a major and recent easing of Covid-19 controls, is expected to use the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting to make the city open for business, after more than two years of strict international border controls.

“We will talk and tell good Hong Kong stories in order to attract companies and talents to the city for business and development,” Li said after arriving in Bangkok on Thursday, referring to his plan to lead a business delegation from Hong Kong to the meetings. with their Thai counterparts following the summit.

But first, Li will join Chinese leader Xi Jinping and representatives from 19 other economies on both sides of the Pacific for the two-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Organization leaders’ meeting in the Thai capital, which starts on Friday and focuses on regional trade and integration. As addressing global economic threats such as inflation and rising food costs.

Lee held a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha at Bangkok International Airport after his arrival on Thursday afternoon. China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported that Li was also at the airport to greet Xi upon his arrival.

For Lee, who took office in July, the summit provides an opportunity to try to win back the international business community’s approval after three years that changed the city. Before the pandemic, the former British colony was rocked by widespread pro-democracy protests in 2019, followed by a Beijing-backed crackdown on civil society and opposition politicians.

Lee was sanctioned by the United States in 2020 for his role in “restricting Hong Kong citizens’ freedom of expression or assembly,” as part of former US President Donald Trump’s administration’s response to Beijing’s imposition of restrictive national security legislation in the city. . At that time, I was the city secretary of security. Then-city chief executive Carrie Lam was also sanctioned.

While US President Joe Biden will not attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Lee will find himself in the company of Vice President Kamala Harris and other US officials.

But Lee’s focus will be on economics, not politics, as the Hong Kong government seeks to revive a faltering economy that only recently saw a significant relaxation of Covid-19 controls.

In September, city officials announced they would end the official Covid-19 quarantine system for international travelers that at one point required arrivals to spend up to three weeks in a designated hotel at their own expense.

The changes came after significant pressure from Hong Kong’s business community and some public health officials to ease restrictions amid a faltering economy, an influx of foreigners and fears that the financial hub, once known as “Asia’s cosmopolitan city”, has been left behind as the rest of the world has moved on. from the epidemic.

This marks a departure from policy in mainland China, which continues to enforce border quarantines and pursues a policy of eliminating all infections.

Instead, Hong Kong has sought to strike a balance between limiting the spread of the virus and opening up to international events, including earlier this month hosting a summit of financial leaders and the Hong Kong Grand Prix, its largest annual sporting event, which has been suspended since 2019. Due to political unrest and, later, Covid-19.

“We are working on specific and ad hoc plans to ensure that major events and economic activities are held smoothly, to open up Hong Kong, and bring the business world back to Hong Kong as quickly and safely as possible,” Li said at a Hong Kong-based health summit last week, according to public broadcaster RTHK.

Li will hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and will also lead a delegation of more than 20 high-level representatives from various sectors to visit companies and meet business leaders with the aim of “strengthening Hong Kong’s ties as well as economic and trade exchanges with Thailand,” the government said before the trip. .

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