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Victor Li ‘prays’ Hong Kong can keep global financial center status

Victor Li, chairman of Hong Kong’s Cheung Kong Holdings, says he “prays” that the city will not lose its international financial center status, as the international backlash mounts with the passing of the more expansive second national security law this week.

“I pray very, very hard it will not be lost,” Li told reporters, after a sigh, at the company’s annual results press conference Thursday when he was asked to comment on Hong Kong’s economic outlook.

The head of the Hong Kong-based conglomerate stressed that the city’s international financial center status hadn’t come easy.

“There are only a few in the world that can be called true international financial centers, and Hong Kong has been one of them for many years. It has been hard-won.”

Hong Kong is the world’s fourth most competitive financial center, trailing Singapore which has taken over the third spot from Hong Kong since September 2022, according to the latest edition of the Global Financial Centres Index by Z/Yen Group and the China Development Institute released this week. 

Li, the elder son of Hong Kong’s richest billionaire and revered businessman Li Ka-shing, has followed in the tradition of his father. Before he stepped down from the public eye in his retirement, Li Ka-shing’s sought-after views always carried weight on the markets. 

Victor Li pointed out that Hong Kong people have gone through a very tough past few years, their resilience put under “wave after wave of stress tests” – from the anti-government protests in 2019, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing economic downturn.

How to address the economic headwinds, he said, is entirely up to the Hong Kong government.

Still, without any crystal ball in the world or the ability to predict the future, Li said Cheung Kong Executive Director Justin Chiu had pointed out to him that all the news that could negatively impact Hong Kong had been released. On the property market front, restrictions were lifted last month and interest rate cuts are only a matter of time, while there are signs of consumption picking up.  

“Once the real estate market booms, other industries will be better; Hong Kong is more unique in this respect,” he said.

Li added that everything has its ups and downs, and “the probability for the downside is lower than that for the upside.”

In recent years, pro-government media have chided the Li family for divesting its assets offshore and making fewer large investments in Hong Kong.

At the press conference, Li countered that Cheung Kong has added a total of eight real estate projects in the city. But the company is also a multinational enterprise with interests in over 50 countries and regions across different sectors.

If there are any projects that yield globally accepted returns, the company will certainly invest in Hong Kong, Li added.

Translated by RFA Staff. Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.