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An Irish welcome awaits you

By Pádraig Seif

Hong Kong, 3 October 2023: A Canadian, a Kiwi and an Irishman walk into a bar. No, it’s not the start of a joke, just a recap of a recent networking event in Central. There were also Dutch people, Malaysians, Singaporeans, various other nationalities and, of course, a significant number of Hong Kong citizens.

They were all guests of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, which was hosting an “Inter-Chamber Meet and Greet”, offering the chance for members of several different business chambers to mix, network and discuss potential co-operation in an informal environment. I’m a regular at such gatherings as President of the Irish Chamber of Commerce, while also representing Boase Cohen & Collins, and a pleasant evening always ensues. Amid the social talk, we enjoy plenty of work-focused conversations. The gathering always results in a potential lead or two.

I’m sometimes asked, what does a Chamber of Commerce do? Our particular group has, at its core, the purpose of promoting Irish businesses in Hong Kong. But we’ve expanded this role to include assisting local businesses with ties to Ireland, Irish enterprises looking at this city as a potential market, and to further Irish interests in myriad ways, be these through education, leisure, tourism or sport. It’s a wide-ranging brief.

The Irish presence in Hong Kong dates back some 180 years. Roads, buildings and other landmarks bearing names such as Robinson, MacDonnell, Hennessy and Bowen will be familiar to many of you – they are named after some of this city’s Irish-born governors. Patricia O’Sullivan’s entertaining 2018 book, Policing Hong Kong: An Irish History, chronicles the experiences of 29 individuals who were recruited from Ireland, mostly from Newmarket in County Cork, to be policemen in Hong Kong. The first arrived in 1864, the last died in 1950.

Legal practitioners from our homeland have also left their imprint on this city. Four of its Attorney Generals were Irish. In the 1960s, Dublin-born Chief Justice Michael Hogan paved the way for a law department to be established at the University of Hong Kong, resulting in the world-class Faculty of Law that we know now. Medicine? Sister Mary Aquinas Monaghan, one of the first four nuns to qualify as physicians in Ireland, oversaw the development of Ruttonjee Sanatorium (later converted into the general hospital it is today), transforming it into a leading centre for tuberculosis treatment.

Hong Kong and Ireland enjoy strong business ties, a mutually beneficial relationship enhanced by the signing of a tax treaty in 2010 and the opening of the Irish Consulate-General here eight years ago. Brexit has accelerated this trend, leaving Ireland perfectly positioned as a gateway to Europe. This means, of course, that the Irish Chamber adopts a pro-EU approach to its work in Hong Kong, working closely with the European Chamber of Commerce, the Office of the European Union to Hong Kong and Macao and other chambers hailing from EU nations.

Aside from networking, we provide business advice and support, organise workshops and seminars on myriad topics, interact with the Hong Kong government in official and unofficial ways and do whatever we can to enhance relations.

As President, I represent our group at Hong Kong government events, participate in high-level meetings and serve as something of a figurehead – a person people can admire, vent about or simply dislike. It’s a position that complements my role at BC&C, given that cross-border legal knowhow is much in demand at any Chamber of Commerce.

Some of the milestones we have achieved this year: receiving funding from the Irish government, welcoming InvestHK as an official member, and doubling our individual and tripling our corporate membership numbers.

You don’t have to be Irish, or even business-minded, to join our group – just sociable. You can find us here. Who knows, at our next event, it might be you who walks into the bar.

Born in Frankfurt to a German father and Irish mother, Pádraig Seif is admitted as a German Rechtsanwalt as well as an English Solicitor and is Foreign Legal Consultant with BC&C. He has in-depth experience with regard to investment funds, asset management, international commercial transactions and corporate law as well as tax structuring. He can be contacted at padraig@boasecohencollins.com.

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