The first half of the year was dominated by the run-up to the Handover. We were kept busy sharing information about the impact on businesses with members, and there was also a great deal of interest – locally and globally, on the Chamber’s opinions on the transition.
While the Handover went smoothly, it was followed by the devastation of the Asian Financial Crisis. The Chamber worked to help members deal with the impact.
We also organized a number of overseas business missions: to Denmark, Japan, the United States, Pakistan, the Philippines as well as several Chinese cities.
As the Asian Financial Crisis tightened its grip, and Hong Kong also faced avian flu and red tides, the Chamber successfully lobbied for lower profits tax and freezing of government fees to help struggling businesses.
We played host to a growing stream of officials and businesspeople from the Mainland, showing the increasing recognition of Hong Kong as an important bridge as the Chinese economy developed.
With the advance of technology, we launched the Chamber website. We also introduced our first Business Prospects Survey, which has become a key tool in understanding the concerns of the local business community.
Hong Kong’s economy emerged from 15 months of recession with growth beyond expectations. Business confidence also rebounded as the Government set out its plans to make Hong Kong a world-class global city with a high-tech, knowledge-based economy.
As the millennium grew closer and concerns arose about the impact on computer networks, we produced a leaflet to advise members on how to deal with the “Y2K” problem. This was welcomed by SMEs in particular and was reprinted to satisfy demand.
Hong Kong hosted the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, with almost 900 delegates attending the three-day conference.
A major project for the Chamber culminated in the publication of "China's Entry into the WTO and the Impact on Hong Kong Business." The report sold thousands of copies around the world, and increased awareness and confidence among Hong Kong businesses about the opportunities in China.
We launched our Business-School Partnership Programme, with senior executives from member companies visiting high schools to discuss their industry and career experiences with students.
The Chamber benefited from global economic recovery and growing trade with the Mainland, while continually striving to improve services, such as introducing electronic trade documentation at our Certification Division.
As part of events to mark the Chamber’s 140th anniversary, we introduced our Distinguished Speakers series, with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa as the first speaker. Another new initiative was a cocktail evening, to give members the opportunity to network in a relaxed environment. We also launched our Women Executives Club (WEC), which quickly became the biggest group in the Chamber.
With China’s membership of the WTO moving closer, we called for a free trade deal – the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) – between Hong Kong and the Mainland.
Among our overseas trips, a delegation visited Northeast China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Amid a stagnant global economy, we launched the “One Company One Job Campaign" to create thousands of trainee positions for young people at local businesses. Despite the external challenges, Hong Kong was able to benefit from the Mainland’s booming economy, particularly in trade.
Our new Member Benefits Programme received a tremendous response, with many members using it to promote their products and services, and many more enjoying the exclusive discounts.
The Chamber also started to raise concerns about Hong Kong’s revenue and spending levels, and we conducted research into civil service pay compared to the private sector.
SARS was undoubtedly the main story of 2003, and we shared our advice with the Government on the best measures to help businesses. We also created a circular that members could share with their overseas contacts to address misinformation.
Once the outbreak had subsided, we organized "Taking off with Hong Kong" – a full-day programme at the airport featuring a conference and a gala dinner.
The signing of CEPA prompted more overseas interest in Hong Kong as the key link with the Mainland. We held events to introduce the benefits of CEPA to members and Certification Office clients.
Hong Kong enjoyed a booming economy with trade, stock markets and property all recovering. The strongest sector was tourism, which saw a 46% increase in visitors on the previous year. Much of this was as a result of the changes to visa rules for Mainland visitors in the wake of SARS.
We also continued to organize events relating to CEPA to help members understand the impact and opportunities, and oversaw the first zero-tariff shipment from Hong Kong to the Mainland.
Overseas visits included a mission to Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
In a reflection of the city’s economic health, Hong Kong had around 30,000 more companies in 2005 than the previous year. We hosted our first CEO Manpower Conference, which discussed issues including importation of labour and education.
We got some celebrity assistance in improving the business environment when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan unveiled an anti-piracy campaign at a luncheon organized by HKGCC and the American Chamber of Commerce.
With increasing job opportunities across the border, we teamed up with the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups to arrange the Looking Northward career programme for local youth.
As part of the Chamber’s activities to tackle air pollution, we organized the Business for Clean Air conference. At the event, Chief Executive Donald Tsang signed our Clean Air Charter, which we had launched the previous year for businesses to commit to reducing their environmental impact.
We also introduced our first sponsored roundtable luncheons, giving companies the opportunity to deliver their message to a targeted audience and share their expertise.
Every year, the Chamber welcomes high-profile speakers. In 2006, they included Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke and Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma.
This was the fourth year in a row of strong growth for Hong Kong. However, the sub-prime mortgage crisis that emerged in the United States was the first hint of the tough times ahead.
With China being the key engine of Hong Kong’s growth, we organized many events to keep members up-to-date, including 10 study missions to the Mainland, hosting more than 70 delegations and visitors, and supporting trade and investment fairs.
We relocated three of our Certification Offices, after a project to centralize document storage freed up considerable space, helping us to save costs and energy.
As the impact of the U.S. sub-prime crisis spiralled, by the end of the year, every major global economy except China was in recession. The Chamber helped members to deal with the impact and plan for the future amid the uncertainty, and lobbied the Government to provide relief to SMEs.
The Beijing Olympics went off without a hitch in a Games that was globally hailed as a great success.
The Chamber introduced regular New Member Briefings to give new joiners the opportunity to learn about our work and meet fellow members including committee leaders.
As the Global Financial Crisis unfolded, the Chamber worked hard to help members figure out ways to keep their business going and retain jobs. The HKGCC Graduate Trainee Programme created almost 1,000 jobs for local young people amid a tough climate.
Internally, the Chamber streamlined operations and reduced headcount. Constrained global trade led to a drop in demand for many of our certification services, however, our carnet services remained robust.
During our annual high-level visit to Beijing, a key topic was the plan to develop Shanghai into a financial centre that would complement, not compete with, Hong Kong.
The city breathed a sigh of relief as recovery bedded in, with 7% growth and employment levels improving. Hong Kong’s revival was helped by the practical measures to help businesses that the Chamber had lobbied for during the worst of the crisis.
Companies also had to deal with a number of significant regulatory changes. We organized events to help members understand the impact of changes including nutritional labelling and the plastic bag levy.
We organized a business mission to explore the opportunities in Egypt and Morocco, as well as visits to several Mainland cities.
To celebrate our 150th anniversary, we hosted a gala dinner with 2,000 guests, and teamed up with Hong Kong Trams and the Star Ferry for our first Free Ride Day, which continued for the next ten years.
Tricky legislative issues included the Competition Bill. We drew on local and global experts for our suggestions to create a fair law that would promote competition without hurting businesses.
The Chamber’s lobbying work saw success in the 12th Five-year Plan, where over 90% of our suggestions on how Hong Kong should position itself as an offshore RMB and wealth management centre were adopted.
With the European and U.S. economies continuing to struggle, Hong Kong was affected by the austere global environment. While demand for trade documentation dropped, our Certification Division’s new Carnet II – Self-drive to Guangdong Province was a success, in addition to buoyant demand for the original carnet.
The Chamber also helped members deal with new challenges emerging amid the Mainland’s growth, including rising wages and a more complex regulatory environment.
We expanded our programme of lifestyle events, covering areas including art and antiques, wine and coffee tasting, and even kung fu.
The global economic malaise continued, but Hong Kong enjoyed modest growth. The Chamber also had a good year, with both attendance and participation rates growing in response to our broader variety of events.
HKGCC joined LinkedIn and Facebook, which increased awareness of our activities and drove online applications for membership. We also revamped our online certification services, enabling 85% of applications to be done online.
A key issue remained the acute labour shortage. However, we saw some success in our lobbying with the speeding up of the process of importing certain skilled overseas workers for the construction industry.
The Occupy Central protests were largely peaceful, but still interrupted the operations of many businesses. A rise in anti-Mainland sentiment and conflict over congestion in some districts also tarnished our appeal as a tourism destination.
The rising number of submissions by the Chamber reflected the growing number of new regulations affecting businesses, and increased our concerns about retaining our appeal as a business hub amid growing competition from other cities.
We also launched our Young Executives Club (YEC) to provide more events of interest and networking opportunities to younger members.
Our Admiralty Head Office got a major facelift in 2015, with a six-month renovation process resulting in bigger, brighter facilities including more meeting rooms and adaptable theatres. We also opened a new Certification Office on-site.
In December, the Government established the Innovation and Technology Bureau – which our Industry & Technology Committee had long been calling for – to better enable Hong Kong to develop related policy in this fast-moving sector.
In our community activity, two YEC teams participated in the 100-kilometre Oxfam Trailwalker, raising HK$244,000 and receiving an outstanding fundraiser award from Oxfam.
We hosted discussions considering the impact on Hong Kong of an increasingly protectionist global environment, with the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
Broader changes to the business environment pointing to a tech-driven future can be seen in the topics of our events during 2016, including digital marketing, data analytics and data privacy, cybersecurity, blockchain, fintech and smart city developments.
The Greater Bay Area initiative was first mentioned in the 13th Five-Year Plan.
The Chamber’s proposal for a simple yet competitive two-tier profits tax structure was finally adopted, which benefitted many SMEs in the city, as well as boosting Hong Kong’s competitiveness on tax.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR, we organized the Wonders of Hong Kong photography contest. The 18 winning photos were exhibited in a roving exhibition in the Admiralty MTR and Kowloon Tong MTR stations as well as at the Chamber’s Admiralty head office.
Our website was updated to make it mobile-friendly, and we launched our e-membership card.
A year of records for Hong Kong, with the world’s longest sea crossing bridge – the 55-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge – a record-breaking surplus of HK$138 billion, and record low unemployment of 2.8%. The city was also hit by the most intense storm since records began, Typhoon Mangkhut.
With great interest in the Greater Bay Area, we established our GBA Working group, organized a popular programme of visits to GBA cities, and teamed up with KPMG and HSBC for a major survey into the initiative.
Our Certification Office headquarters moved to a new and more convenient location in Mong Kok.
An extremely challenging year as protests against the Fugitive Offenders Bill descended into violence and destruction. Our Chairman Aron Harilela hosted two SME Forums to discuss with members how to best help affected businesses. We submitted these ideas to the Financial Secretary and many of them were adopted in support measures.
On a more positive note, the long-awaited Outline Development Plan for the GBA was issued, providing more clarification on Hong Kong’s role in the initiative.
To expand our connections with the city’s young people, we hosted our first Business Case Competition for university students.
In many ways, Hong Kong escaped lightly from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, as rapid action to close the borders prevented a healthcare catastrophe and avoided a total lockdown, and we benefitted from Mainland China’s return to growth.
But social-distancing rules had a severe impact on many businesses. The Chamber ran several member surveys to better inform our lobbying efforts, which resulted in a wide range of financial assistance including the Employment Support Scheme and enhancements to the 100% Loan Guarantee programme.
We also ramped up our charity work to support the city’s most needy citizens at this difficult time.
Our major campaign in 2021 was the Hong Kong We Can Do It! Lucky Draw, which saw more than 6,000 people win prizes worth more than HK$43 million donated by members, and a further 2.6 million people get vaccinated during the months-long event.
Among our community work, our 160th Anniversary Charity Golf Tournament raised HK$300,000 for good causes, while our WEC also arranged a variety of charity events to help the underprivileged.
We launched the 160+ Internship Programme, which secured 1,600 places for young people. Our members were also major supporters of the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme.