Dear Members and Friends of SwedCham,
We have now for almost four months been tested in ways none of us had experienced previously. On the face of it, Hong Kong has handled the situation better than most so far, but this doesn’t mean that we are unaffected, far from it. For a city that exists to serve international commerce, it is challenging to contemplate an extended period of travel restrictions and diminishing trade flows.
I have been encouraged by my (web conference) interactions with the SwedCham community. We have the good fortune of having access to an amazing talent pool within our network. From talking to members, I have picked up several new habits that have facilitated my work and life. For example, set a clear goal (for yourself and your business) and focus on that, follow a daily routine (that includes time away from the screen, preferably outside), and use any downtime to explore a new hobby. My own new hobby is bird-watching! (Did you know that Hong Kong is home to more than 500 species?)
At SwedCham we have discovered that we can reach a wider audience for events when we use web conferencing tools. Technology has also allowed us to organize international – even intercontinental! – events together with some of our great partners, including Swedish chambers of commerce in China, Japan, and Singapore, and the Hong Kong chamber of commerce in Sweden.
In addition, SwedCham has responded to requests from members and initiated specific online discussion groups for certain positions and interest-groups. Thus, we now have groups for CFOs (open to members of Nordic chambers) and Entrepreneurs/HK Established Companies (without a HQ elsewhere). Most recently, our group for members interested in sustainable fashion was initiated. Each group is facilitated by a designated SwedCham member. If you would like to join one of these groups, or start a group within an area not yet covered, please let us know!
While a number of social distancing restrictions will remain in place in Hong Kong for a bit longer, the SwedCham office, together with the Consulate General, is gradually reverting to regular office routines this week. I suspect that many of our members are also starting to “normalize” their Hong Kong operation step by step.
At the same time, I am painfully aware that many of you have suffered major losses and that some of you may even be fighting for the survival of your businesses. The government’s support measures will be of some help here. I also hope that you will draw on the resources available within the Swedish community. For those of you who have spare time/capacity/resources: If there was ever a time to reach out to a fellow chamber member to ask if you can be of help, that time is now.
We should also recognize that Hong Kong’s social conflict is far from being resolved, and that new interruptions of day-to-day activities are likely as we approach September’s Legco elections. In 2019, SwedCham monitored developments very closely, and met with the government on a regular basis. In these meetings, we pointed out that Hong Kong’s future success hinges on “One Country, Two Systems” being respected by all sides. I can assure you that we will stay active in this regard.
Due to the social distancing regime that remains in place in Hong Kong for now, we have so far held off on scheduling our Annual General Meeting (according to our Articles of Association, it does not need to take place until the end of September). However, we are hopeful that most restrictions that affect everyday life will be removed soon, which would allow us to schedule an AGM in the relatively near future. Stay tuned.
The challenging climate of the past few months will stay with us for a while, although the nature of the challenges we face may change somewhat over time. For many of us, the mental stresses of an uncertain situation and of being separated from friends and family in other parts of the world will not be easy to handle. Let’s try our best as a community to inspire each other to set goals and stick to our routines, even when things are looking tough. And why not find some time to go out and watch the birds!
Kristian Odebjer, Chairman of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong