Me and my country: Dr. Henri Leimer, Honorary Consul of the Principality of Liechtenstein

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How did you get to be the Honorary CG?

I grew up in Liechtenstein, and I have spent the last 20 years working for LGT Bank (Hong Kong), which is owned by the Princely Family of Liechtenstein. As a result, Liechtenstein has always been a very big part of my life. When the country decided to open an Honorary Consulate in Hong Kong, it seemed natural for me to become involved, and it was a great honor for them to ask me to be the Honorary Consul General.

What are your duties?

One of my main duties is to help people to learn more about Liechtenstein. This is not an issue for diplomats from most countries, but Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest state in Europe. It’s population is about 37,000 people and the country only has an area of 62 square miles. As such, after I tell people where I’m from, questions about Liechtenstein almost inevitably follow.

Liechtenstein is a jewel of a country, located in the heart of Europe. It has been a sovereign state for over 200 years. One of the most fascinating things about Liechtenstein is how such a small State has been able to survive for centuries and thrive economically. I’m often asked about the secret of our success, and the factors that I cite are:

  • Political stability,
  • A liberal economic framework,
  • A functioning and independent judicial system,
  • The entrepreneurial tradition that has been strengthened over generations,
  • And, of course, our international ties.

Political stability is one of our most key factors, and one prerequisite for political stability is a stable system of state. Liechtenstein has a unique constitution that combines a representative democracy with an active monarch and
the most extensive elements of direct democracy.

Liechtenstein also has a broadly diversified economic structure. While many people associate Liechtenstein with banking, it is the manufacturing industries that actually provide roughly 40% of the jobs and contribute roughly 40% of the gdp. HILTI drilling machines, which are used at construction sites worldwide, were invented in Liechtenstein, and 20% of all false teeth worldwide are made by the Liechtenstein company Ivoclar/Vivadent.

Of course, financial services are also important to Liechtenstein’s economy, and contribute to roughly 27% of the country’s GDP. Two of the country’s banks, LGT and VP Bank, are present in Hong Kong. It goes without saying that Liechtenstein has recognised and implemented the current international standards on tax information exchange as well as on combating and preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Liechtenstein has only a small network of consular representations all over the world. In the past, there was no representation of the country in Asia. One of my goals, as Honorary Consul, is to make Liechtenstein better known in Greater China, as well as to serve as a link between Liechtenstein and local economic and political leaders. I also aim to enhance both the economic and cultural co-operation between Greater China and Liechtenstein.

In addition to the business side, I get to participate in special events such as the flag raising ceremony on Chinese National Day. And we intend to start celebrating Liechtenstein National Day in Hong Kong each August going forward. As the Honorary Consulate has only been open in Hong Kong since late June, I am still getting to know the local diplomatic community and very much learning on the job.

What are the most unusual tasks you’ve been asked to do?

A person who holds an overseas driving license may apply for a full Hong Kong driving license without passing a driving test, provided their overseas driving license was issued by one of the countries which are on a list approved by the Hong Kong government. Although many European countries, including Switzerland and Austria (which are located beside Liechtenstein) are on this list, tiny Liechtenstein has been left out. I am in the process of working with the Hong Kong transportation authorities to change that. Perhaps this will encourage more Liechtenstein citizens to move to Hong Kong!