Chamber in Review
HKGCC Annual General Meeting
HKGCC Annual General Meeting<br/>總商會周年會員大會

HKGCC Annual General Meeting<br/>總商會周年會員大會

Working Together Through Tough Times

Outgoing Chairman Peter Wong reviews another challenging year for Hong Kong businesses at the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting. Following is an abridged version of his speech

For the second year running, Covid-19 dominated every aspect of doing business in 2021, but despite the challenges, Hong Kong’s economy grew a healthy 6.4%. The city’s unemployment rate also improved, falling to 3.9% as 2021 drew to a close. But the rapid spread of Omicron at the start of 2022 has dimmed the outlook, with growth this year forecast to be just 1.2%. 

A key objective in the fight against the pandemic was getting more people vaccinated. I’m proud to say that the Chamber and members played a key role in encouraging people to get their jab. You donated over HK$43 million-worth of prizes for our “Hong Kong We Can Do It! Lucky Draw.” 

But despite the success of the vaccination campaign, businesses continued to suffer from the travel and other anti-epidemic restrictions. 

Your Chamber lobbied the Government relentlessly to increase and expand support for businesses, intensifying our efforts at the start of this year; our work was not in vain. 

In addition to the financial support programmes announced during 2021, the Government agreed to our requests for a third tranche of the Employment Support Scheme and consumption vouchers. 

During the course of the year, we worked hard to collect your views through our committees and surveys, allowing us to convey your concerns and suggestions to the Government. 

Key among these findings was the need to ease travel restrictions: you told us it was isolating Hong Kong and adding to the exodus of skilled workers. The findings were very worrying given that Hong Kong’s competitiveness is built on the expertise of its talented workforce. I wrote personally to the Chief Executive to tell her about the survey and your recommendations to arrest this trend. 

Your message was clear: we need to re-open as soon as possible if we are to safeguard our status as Asia’s leading international business, financial and aviation hub. 

Towards the end of 2021, we again worked with the Government on a plan to resume quarantine-free travel with the Mainland. Although the re-opening of the border is on hold for the moment, we now have a mechanism that can be rolled out when the situation allows. 

Throughout the past year, the Chamber staff worked hard to minimize disruptions to member services. Despite the restrictions, we organized almost 400 webinars, seminars and training courses as online or hybrid events in 2021. The valuable work of the Chamber’s committees continued uninterrupted, and our business documentation services continued as normal following a well-executed contingency plan. 

Members also gave their time, money and passion to support less fortunate members of society, including our 160th Anniversary Charity Golf Tournament, which raised HK$300,000 for a good cause.

Members’ generosity and community spirit was further reflected in our 160+ Internship Scheme, which created more than 1,600 internship positions. HKGCC members were also among the biggest supporters of the Government’s GBA Youth Employment Scheme.

After almost two-and-a-half years of restrictions, I believe we’re all hungry to get out there and show the world what Hong Kong can do. Although there has been some relaxation of entry requirements, more needs to be done to safeguard Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an international financial centre.  

No doubt there will be challenges ahead, but as we have proven time and again, we emerge from each storm stronger, leaner and with a renewed sense of purpose. 

I have every confidence that Covid will be no different: we will build on the resilience and community spirit you have shown over the past 12 months to reconfirm Hong Kong’s place as one of the world’s best places to do business.

Outgoing Chairman Peter Wong


Supporting Businesses Amid Challenges

The past year has been extremely challenging for Hong Kong, for many businesses and also for your Chamber. The difficulties forced us to stretch our innovation, creativity and skills to overcome what seemed, at times, relentless waves of obstacles. So, it is a pleasure to report some good news on your Chamber’s work in the past year. 

First: advocacy. Our policy work focused on ways to help businesses through the tough pandemic. Many of our requests submitted to the Financial Secretary were included in his Budget, including reducing profits tax, waiving business fees, and extending programmes such as the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme. More recently, our calls for a third tranche of the Employment Subsidy Scheme came to fruition in March this year. 

Our non-Covid policy work also continued unabated. We presented your views on a wide range of proposed policy changes and submissions, from family offices to plastic tableware to HKEX’s listing rules and the use of real names in SIM cards, among others. 

We also regularly conducted surveys – including on “Hong Kong’s Brain Drain,” “Challenges of the F&B Sector” and “Business Confidence Outlook.” The results of these allowed us to present the business community’s key concerns to the Government, and made sure that our lobbying efforts targeted members’ pain points. 

For the Chamber’s knowledge-sharing events and training programmes, many of these had to be held virtually or with a limited number of people to comply with social-distancing restrictions. However, this allowed us to mine speakers from around the world and connect businesses with international organizations. 

Opportunities in the Mainland, and in the Greater Bay Area in particular, continued to be of great interest to our members. So while the border remained closed, we shared information through talks on key issues including new Central Government policies and regulatory changes. We also invited Chief Executive Carrie Lam to be our 160th Anniversary Distinguished Speaker to discuss the opportunities for Hong Kong in the 14th National Five-Year Plan. 

Of all the Chamber functions, networking events suffered the biggest blow from the Covid restrictions. So we were very happy to be able to reintroduce some in-person events in the latter part of the year. These included our Joint Business Community Luncheon with the Chief Executive, site visits, happy hours, and we capped off 2021 with a return of our Christmas Cocktail Reception at Hong Kong Club, albeit with a much smaller number of attendees than usual. 

We also worked hard to help the whole of Hong Kong society through our CSR work. As the Chairman just mentioned, our biggest focus in 2021 was to boost Hong Kong’s vaccination rate. 

We also launched some new initiatives, such as YEC’s Pitch Perfect Programme to help students get their careers off to a flying start, as well as gave scholarships to eight local universities as part of our 160th anniversary celebrations. These were in addition to our long-standing programmes, like the Good Citizen Award, the Business-School Partnership Progamme, and Business Case Competition.

George Leung, CEO, HKGCC 


Connecting Business and Government 

It has been an extraordinary year amid a complex and ever-changing global landscape. The ongoing China-U.S. trade tensions, Russia-Ukraine war and coronavirus pandemic have cast a long shadow over geopolitical worries and the world economy. 

In Hong Kong, the fifth wave of the pandemic swept through the city like a tsunami, affecting almost every business and the whole of society. 

With the number of Covid cases stabilising, I hope that the new Administration will focus on three major tasks. First, resuming quarantine-free travel with the Mainland and the rest of the world. Second, reviving our economy and strengthening Hong Kong’s role as an international financial and business hub. And third, attract and retain talent to sustain the city’s competitiveness, prosperity and stability.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, I have kept in close contact with members through various channels to present businesses’ concerns and difficulties to senior Government officials.

I proposed a number of measures to fight the pandemic, support businesses and safeguard jobs. In February this year, I asked the Government to relaunch an enhanced version of the Employment Support Scheme (ESS) so that it would benefit more businesses. These included removing the monthly salary cap, increasing the maximum number of eligible employees in each company to 1,000, and providing a 50% wage subsidy for part-time and temporary workers. All these proposals were adopted by the Government. 

The first tranche of the consumption vouchers worth HK$5,000, and the new round of the ESS, will bring some relief for businesses. But for our economy to fully recover, a key priority for the new Government should be resuming quarantine-free cross-border travel as soon as possible, in addition to drafting a clear and feasible roadmap charting how we exit from the pandemic. 

Hong Kong also needs to hone its long-term competitiveness by strengthening our role as an international financial centre, including further developing our offshore RMB business, and our position as a global hub for innovation and technology. By seizing opportunities from the development of the Greater Bay Area and our further integration into the overall development of the country, Hong Kong will be able to leverage its unique advantages under the “one country, two systems.”

As the saying goes, “union is strength.” I hope the new Government will work in a pragmatic manner to unite the community, improve our business environment, cut red tape as well as attract and retain talent.

Jeffrey Lam, HKGCC LegCo Representative


Growing Awareness of Importance of the Environment

2021 was a difficult year as Hong Kong continued to be buffeted by the effects of Covid-19 as it entered the second year of the pandemic. If developments since the onset of the pandemic have taught us anything, it is the importance of a healthy and livable environment as a fundamental precondition to economic prosperity and well-being. 

To that end, the committee has continued to advocate for an operating environment that facilitates sustainable development. We, on behalf of the Chamber, formulated responses to two consultations aimed at reducing plastic waste: proposals for a Producer Responsibility Scheme on plastic beverage containers, and legislation to regulate the sale and use of disposable plastic tableware. We also issued a statement to support the Government’s proposal to introduce a charging scheme for reducing municipal solid waste.

As part of its advocacy work, the committee regularly engages the Government to facilitate exchanges and provide timely updates on policy developments. We hosted Secretary for the Environment KS Wong as well as officials from the Environment Protection Department on the Government’s various environment-related initiatives. 

Following the establishment of the Sustainable Finance Working Group in late 2020, a joint initiative with the Chamber’s Financial and Treasury Services, and Real Estate and Infrastructure committees, we have been working closely with the Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group co-chaired by the HKMA and SFC. The working group held discussions on such issues as promoting Hong Kong as a centre for carbon trading, and refining the Green and Sustainable Finance Grant Scheme launched by HKMA last year. It also organized a number of informative events on issues such as ESG practices in the Mainland, the risk of rising sea levels to Hong Kong, and blockchain for sustainable finance. 

Of particular note was a high-level seminar where senior executives from HKMA, SFC, HKEX and other organizations spoke on positioning Hong Kong to capture opportunities in green and sustainable finance.

Wilson Kwong, Chairman, Environment & Sustainability Committee 


Building a Smarter City

The committee attaches great importance to cultivating and raising awareness of innovation and technology, whether in a business setting or society as a whole. In this regard, the committee engaged various organizations, such as the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), to identify and collaborate on issues of interest to members. 

An example of such a partnership was the “Create Smart District in Hong Kong Project” that the Chamber co-organized with HKPC and the Vocational Training Council (VTC).  The objective of the project is to advance Hong Kong’s smart city agenda by enlisting young talent to develop pioneering and technology-based solutions to address district-specific issues. 

In addition, the Chamber, through the committee’s Smart City Working Group, has entered into a strategic partnership with the Chinese University of Hong Kong to develop a ground-breaking Corporate Innovation Index. The goal of the project is to provide the local business community with an authoritative guide to benchmark their journey towards innovative excellence and acquire knowledge on best practices. 

The committee also continued to  oversee the Innovation & Creativity category of the Hong Kong Awards for Industries, which recognizes companies that excel in bringing to market new and unique products and services. As you can imagine, there were challenges with organizing the award given the social-distancing restrictions. However, we managed to complete important milestones, not least judging applicants and selecting the award winners. We also organized an online seminar at which industry experts discussed the importance of cultivating innovation and digital transformation in a corporate setting. 

To help members stay abreast of the latest market developments and regulatory environment, the committee organized seminars on issues of topical interest. We held events on a variety of topics, such as the use of automated hardware systems, Smart City Blueprint for Hong Kong 2.0, cloud computing and indoor mapping technology.

Looking ahead, the committee will continue to advocate for, and promote awareness of, the importance of innovation and technology as a key growth engine for Hong Kong.

Victor Lam, Chairman, Industry & Technology Committee


Inspiring Women and Community Support

The Women Executives Club focused on three agendas in 2021 – community contribution, female leadership, and diversity and inclusion.

WEC’s community programmes were scheduled around festivities. Often working with other HKGCC committees, we delivered care packages to underprivileged families, halal food packages to the Muslim community, mid-autumn mooncake bundles to elderly citizens, and Christmas presents to children. For these events, we worked with NGOs including The Hub, the Zubin Foundation, Food Angel, and the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children. Thanks to the generosity of members, we raised over HK$2 million in cash and in-kind donations. 

We organized a series of Women Leadership Seminars with executives from different industries to share their experiences.  

For example, we had the honour of having Foo Teow Lee, the former Consul General of Singapore, speak on Women in Diplomacy, and Lanis Yarzab of LinkedIn, speak on Women in Innovation and Technology. We were also honoured to have Rachel Lord of BlackRock, speaking on Women in Finance. 

Some webinars were hosted in a panel format, including our Women in Philanthropy, Women in IT and Women in F&B events.  

Apart from women leadership talks, WEC also hosted a seminar on Diversity and Inclusion with equal opportunities advocates Kim Mok, Walter Tsui, and Carmen Yau. We learned a lot from their personal stories and how they founded their own NGOs, despite being visually impaired or wheelchair users. 

When social-distancing restrictions allowed, we held visits, including to some of Hong Kong’s unique cultural heritage sites in Tai O, and a guided tour of the exhibition “Photographs from the 1950s: Marjorie Doggett’s Singapore, Lee Fook Chee’s Hong Kong.” A visit to co-working space CoCoon was also held to meet with early-stage entrepreneurs. 

An increasingly important role of WEC is to support the advocacy work of the Chamber. In this regards, we proposed that the Government should issue “caregiver vouchers” and increase the number of day-care centres to encourage mothers to return to the workforce.

Nikki Ng, Chairman, Women Executives Club


Betty Yuen Elected HKGCC Chairman 

Betty Yuen, Group Director, CLP Holdings Ltd, was elected Chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce for the coming year, taking over from Peter Wong who retired from the chairmanship after serving for two years. 

The election was held at the inaugural meeting of the new General Committee immediately after the Chamber’s AGM on 13 May. Agnes Chan, Managing Partner, Hong Kong & Macau, EY, was elected as Deputy Chairman. 

Victor Li, Chairman and Group Co-Managing Director, CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd, and Douglas Woo, Chairman & Managing Director, Wheelock and Co Ltd, were re-elected as Vice Chairmen, while Guy Bradley, Chairman, John Swire & Sons (HK) Ltd, was elected as Vice Chairman. 

At the AGM, members elected a total of six members to fill the seats on the General Committee – the governing body of the Chamber – who were required to step down this year. Three of them were re-elected – Agnes Chan, Douglas Woo and Emil Yu – while Eric Fok, Eric Ma and Roy Ng were newly elected. 


HKGCC General Committee

Chairman: Betty Yuen

Deputy Chairman: Agnes Chan

Vice Chairmen: Guy Bradley, Victor Li, Douglas Woo

LegCo Representative: Jeffrey K F Lam

General Committee Members:

Jennifer Chan, Oscar Chow, Eric Fok, Allen Fung, Aron Harilela, Benjamin Hung, Jacob Kam, Peter Lam, Eric Ma, Nikki Ng, Roy Ng, YK Pang, Neville S Shroff, Leland Sun, Sun Yu, Peter Wong, Emil Yu, Yu Pang Chun, Edmond Yue.



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