Hong Kong Grants JP Morgan CEO Quarantine Exemption Angering Some

By Jonathan Walker | November 17, 2021
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
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HONG KONG, CHINA - JULY 30: Residents walk on breakwaters at a typhoon shelter in front of Hong Kong skyline on July 30, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong have recorded the highest daily tally of Covid-19 with 149 confirmed cases. (Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Hong Kong has imposed some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the world that includes mandatory three-week quarantines for people coming into the city from abroad. However, these restrictions are not being applied to a select few the administration considers as elite granting them quarantine exemptions. A recent beneficiary of such an exemption is JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon.

In his first visit to Asia in over two years, Dimon was granted an exemption from the 21-day hotel mandatory quarantine rule. Dimon was in Hong Kong for around 32 hours, with his visit aimed at thanking staff members for working hard during the pandemic and to meet with regulators. He is also the first executive from a Wall Street bank to visit Hong Kong or mainland China since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out almost two years ago.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam justified the exemption granted to Dimon. “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.

Quarantine exemptions for some

In August, Hong Kong’s quarantine exemption for elites raised controversy after authorities allowed Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman into the city without enforcing the mandatory quarantine. She had visited Hong Kong as part of a filming schedule. This prompted a huge outcry from people who had paid significant money to stay at expensive hotels during quarantine.

“[T]he case in discussion has been granted permission to travel to Hong Kong with a quarantine exemption for the purpose of performing designated professional work, taking into account that it is conducive to maintaining the necessary operation and development of Hong Kong’s economy,” the administration said at the time.

Kidman’s exemption came at a time when Hong Kongers were bracing for even more draconian COVID-19 travel restrictions. The exemption contrasted sharply with entry rules for residents sparking significant online criticism with one twitter user exclaiming, “So we have HK residents who can’t come back if not vaccinated (and even then with 2-3 weeks quarantine) but Nicole Kidman can just enter like this? It’s disgusting!”

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., listens while at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Dimon was recently granted a quarantine exemption by Hong Kong authorities. (Image: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

JP Morgan CEO Dimon had earlier told reporters that Hong Kong’s strict COVID-19 protocols were making it “harder” for companies to hire and retain talent.

In October, the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association expressed concerns that the tight coronavirus rules could hamper the city’s growth as an international finance hub. Around half of the association’s members had reportedly admitted that they were considering moving out of Hong Kong.

The city’s economic rival Singapore allows vaccinated individuals from a few countries entry without being subjected to quarantine. A survey from the local American Chamber of Commerce from May also pointed out that businesses were thinking of exiting Hong Kong. 

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Despite the administration’s justifications, the people of Hong Kong are not happy with the elite exemption rule and have taken to the internet to vent their frustration. Some complained that rich and powerful people are afforded better treatment than the city’s longtime residents.

“The privileged can jetset into Hong Kong on a breeze without [any] consequences … the rest of us [are] forced into three weeks of solitary confinement with [poor] food and no fresh air,” a Facebook user said.