Attendees at the fourth Belt and Road Summit that ended here Thursday have expressed their hope that Hong Kong returns to peace and stability and plays an even more significant role in the development of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Themed "Hong Kong IN: Creating and Realising Opportunities," the event was extended to two full days this year, and around 5,000 government officials, entrepreneurs and professionals from 69 countries and regions assembled here to explore and discuss collaboration opportunities under the initiative.
During the gathering, policy dialogues, thematic forums, project pitching sessions, and over 700 one-on-one business-matching meetings for more than 240 projects were held.
Recent unrest has severely impacted Hong Kong's economy, and the exhibition industry has not been spared. However, this year's summit struck a strong note with more participants and longer duration than the previous year.
Many attendees voiced their concern about the violence in Hong Kong.
"No one can condone violence," said Will Myles, global director of RICS, a professional body for qualifications and standards. He has lived and worked in Hong Kong for many years, believing that it needs time and dialogues to solve social problems.
Myles said he looks forward to Hong Kong still as an international place of business.
Davood Jalili with the Iranian Chamber of Commerce & Investment in Hong Kong and Macao, has spent 15 years in Hong Kong and he said he believes the majority of Hong Kong residents do not want the place where they live to be in chaos, with the airport occupied and the flow of travelers stopped by protesters.
With support of China's central government and hard efforts made by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) government, the SAR will go through these challenging times, Jalili said.
"At first, we worried that the protest may actually affect the summit," Phumzile Sibisi, deputy head of customer & retail services of Ethekwini Municipality, said. "I think the government has done a great job, and hopefully they will be able to address the unrest."
Carrie Lam, chief executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said at the opening session that Hong Kong is well positioned to serve as the gateway to the Belt and Road and its manifold prospects and possibilities, with opportunities in capacity building, green finance, professional services and business matching.
Infrastructure is a cornerstone of the Belt and Road Initiative. Its funding needs in Asia will be 1.7 trillion U.S. dollars each year on average through 2030, according to the Asian Development Bank.
"Our deep liquidity, outstanding financial infrastructure and wide-ranging options for raising capital...can meet the financing needs of any Belt and Road project," Paul Chan, financial secretary of the HKSAR government, said.
Chan stressed that Hong Kong arranged and issued 11 billion U.S. dollars worth of green bonds last year, tripling that of 2017.
Experts said that Hong Kong's high standard professional services can provide strong support for a wide range of projects of the Belt and Road Initiative. The city boasts world-class talent in finance, accounting, insurance, risk management, law and dispute resolution.
"Hong Kong remains and will continue to play a unique role in China's continuing development and in the Belt and Road Initiative," Victor Chu, chairman of First Eastern Investment Group, said.
Thanks to Hong Kong's favorable conditions, Chu's group has invested over 200 projects in 55 cities in the Chinese mainland, as well as quite a few energy efficiency projects in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.
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From government officials to enterprises and institutions, the development opportunities created by the Belt and Road Initiative have been increasingly recognized globally.
It was the second straight year for the Economic Development Board of Mauritius to participate in the forum. In last year's event, it successfully signed an agreement with a Chinese company to set up regional headquarters in Mauritius to explore the African market.
"In the Belt and Road, Mauritius has a very favorable location that only takes several hours of flight to reach African countries, India or Australia," Hans Seesaghur, China desk officer of the Economic Development Board of Mauritius, said.
Seesaghur said that he hopes more enterprises learn about Mauritius' good investment environment and rich financial services at this year's summit.
Like Seesaghur, Boris Tkatchenko, project manager of Greater Paris Investment Agency, also looked for new Belt and Road investment opportunities at the summit, for the latest infrastructure project in Paris and surrounding areas.
The project will add 200 km of new railway lines that more efficiently link Paris with surrounding places that feature high techs, bio-techs, sustainable city, and digital and creative industry, with 2 million passengers every day.
"We are looking for private investors for following investment expected at 100 billion euros that will reinvent areas surrounding those new stations," Tkatchenko said.
The Greater Paris project will be greatly benefited, if becoming part of the Belt and Road Initiative, he said.