HONG KONG - Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu highlighted the city’s role as “a pivotal gateway” for the Belt and Road Initiative, pledging to maintain the Asian financial hub’s longstanding support and practice of free markets and multilateralism. In his onsite opening address at the seventh Belt and Road Summit on Wednesday, Lee said various Belt and Road collaboration programs have been established in Hong Kong, and the government has also partnered with related parties to provide Belt and Road networking opportunities for companies and professionals. With the theme “Heralding a New Chapter: Collaborate and Innovate”, the summit is among the major events this year marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Since the Belt and Road Initiative was launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, it has inspired regional and international collaboration among over 180 countries and international organizations, covering policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people-to-people bonds. For Belt and Road companies, economies, and the projects they partner in, Hong Kong has all it needs — including project financing and professional services support, innovation and technology, capacity building, cultural awareness, and wide-ranging connections, Lee said. Acknowledging the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, Lee said Hong Kong’s financial system remains resilient to market volatility. This has been clearly shown by the capital adequacy ratio of Hong Kong’s major central banks exceeding 20 percent at the end of last year, and the average liquidity coverage ratio surpassing 150 percent — both above international standards. Lee said Hong Kong’s foreign reserves stood at US$447.3 billion, equivalent to about 130 percent of the city’s GDP. “That ensures that our financial market is reinforced with the buffers and resilience necessary to counter global financial and political shocks,” he said. Lee also said Hong Kong is seeking early accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership — the world’s largest free trade agreement, which covers about 30 percent of the global total gross domestic product. “Joining the RCEP is a natural step for Hong Kong. It’ll enable us to deepen the collaboration and connections we enjoy with our close partners,” he said. Also on Wednesday, in his online keynote speech at the summit, Vice-Premier Han Zheng affirmed Hong Kong is an active participant, contributor and beneficiary of the Belt and Road Initiative. He said the central government will fully support Hong Kong in maintaining its distinct position and advantages, and in actively participating in and contributing to the Belt and Road. Han also expressed his hopes for what Hong Kong should do in terms of promoting practical regional cooperation, strengthening professional services, enhancing cultural and education exchanges, and deepening collaborations with the Chinese mainland.