Hong Kong Lets JPMorgan CEO Skip Quarantine Because He Runs ‘Very Big Bank’

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon looks on during the inauguration the new French headquarters of JP Morgan bank Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool)
AP Photo/Michel Euler, Pool

Hong Kong has a very strict 21-day coronavirus quarantine rule for international visitors, but the rule was waived for JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon when he arrived by private jet on Monday.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam explained the rules were rewritten for Dimon because JPMorgan is huge, Dimon is important, and the risks of allowing him to skip quarantine were deemed manageable.

“The justification is related to the economy, as this is a very huge bank with key business in Hong Kong. He needed to come and work for about a day in Hong Kong. But there are restrictions, including restrictions over his itinerary, so the risk is completely manageable,” Lam said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“Hong Kong is pursuing a Covid Zero strategy alongside China, and has imposed some of the world’s strictest travel rules to keep the virus out,” the UK Guardian noted. 

“Measures include mandatory hotel quarantines of three weeks for any resident returning from the UK or US, regardless of vaccination status, followed by seven days of self-monitoring. Tourists and most non-resident visitors are banned from boarding flights to the city,” the Guardian said.

Dimon was given a VIP exemption to these rules, similar to the free pass controversially extended to actress Nicole Kidman in August when she visited Australia and Hong Kong to film a television series for Amazon. 

As with Dimon, Hong Kong officials said Kidman was exempted from quarantine requirements because she was “performing designated professional work” that was “conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy.”

Dimon spent about 32 hours in Hong Kong, arriving three weeks after the city removed some of the exemptions previously granted to business travelers. Lam said in October the rules were tightened to bring them “more in line with mainland practices,” even though Hong Kong is not currently facing a coronavirus outbreak like China.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on April 13, 2021. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on April 13, 2021. (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)

The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association expressed concerns in October that Hong Kong’s tightened rules could make it harder for international businesses to use the island as a financial hub. 

The association said almost half its members were considering relocating their operations out of Hong Kong because of the restrictions. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that rival hub city Singapore “allows quarantine-free access to fully vaccinated travelers from a dozen countries and is discussing opening up to more.”

“The context is that Hong Kong’s primary advantage lies in being the gateway to mainland China. If businesses established in Hong Kong cannot go to the mainland [China], I think it would significantly reduce the appeal of Hong Kong as an international business hub and international financial center,” Lam responded at the time.

Dimon told reporters on Monday he thought Hong Kong’s coronavirus protocol “does make it harder” for JPMorgan to attract and retain talented employees.

The CEO said his trip was intended to thank JPMorgan’s 4,000 Hong Kong employees for their dedication and hard work during the pandemic, which contributed to rising profits.

“The bank’s revenue in Asia has risen by more than 50% over the past five years, with 90% of the growth coming from Greater China,” Bloomberg News observed.

Reuters noted JPMorgan in August became “the first overseas bank to be granted approval to take full ownership of its mainland Chinese securities joint venture.”

Dimon said during his visit to Hong Kong that he is “not swayed by geopolitical winds” when making business decisions. He expressed confidence in the Chinese economy, predicted the Chinese property crisis will not “have a big impact” on global markets, and said he expects U.S.-China relations to improve.

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