BlackRock postpones big event in Hong Kong as protests heat up
Companies are being forced to draw up contingency plans for events in Hong Kong as the city grapples with weeks of disruption from massive protests that disrupted nearly 1,000 flights this week.
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, confirmed to CNN Business on Wednesday that it has postponed a conference that was supposed to take place in the city next month.
The company’s Asia Media Forum, a two-day event at the Four Seasons Hotel, will now be held in February. The gathering usually brings in senior BlackRock executives and more than 100 clients.
BlackRock did not specifically mention the protests in its statement. But the company said it is “adjusting the schedule so that as many partners as possible from across Asia are able to join.”
“The power of this event lies in the diverse range of perspectives brought together for discussion and debate,” a BlackRock spokesperson said.
The last-minute shift doesn’t appear to have interrupted other operations at the company so far. BlackRock executives continue to travel to Hong Kong on a regular basis, and several speakers scheduled to participate in the event still plan to visit Hong Kong for client meetings and discussions, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The investment company is not alone in rethinking its plans.
CLSA, a major brokerage owned by China’s CITIC Securities, said its annual investor conference would take place as planned in Hong Kong next month.
But the company told CNN Business that it was “monitoring the protests closely to ensure the safety of clients and staff,” and adding extra security to ensure that only invited guests would be allowed entry.
“CLSA is currently working on a contingency plan,” a company spokesperson said. “We are working with the hotel to ensure the security of all delegates.”
Mass protests disrupted operations at Hong Kong’s international airport on Monday and Tuesday, stranding thousands of passengers. Violence has escalated over the last few weeks and the turmoil is hurting a growing number of global businesses.
Business leaders have started speaking out more forcefully on the issue. This week, some of Hong Kong’s billionaires called for an end to the protests and expressed their support for the government.
Other business institutions said the demonstrations are a concern for the local economy.
“The occupation of the airport by protesters and forcing its closure caused unnecessary distress and financial losses for both local and international travelers, as well as airlines,” the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce said in a statement Wednesday. “Left unaddressed, the closure of the airport would have seriously tarnished Hong Kong’s reputation and role as an air transport hub for the region.”
The latest showdown is extremely concerning for businesses, because it echoes “all over the world,” said Davide De Rosa, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.
“It just simply doesn’t look good,” he added. “It’s a very worrying situation for the businesses or for the companies doing business in Hong Kong, and then for Hong Kong itself.”