From Peak to Alpine heights: Hong Kong to Liechtenstein

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At the heart of Europe, Liechtenstein. At the heart of Asia, Hong Kong. The connections between these two unique places are formed through business, governments and deeply, deeply personal bonds.

Photo: Minister Frick shaking hands with Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the HKSAR Gregory So upon the signing of the Liechtenstein-HK FTA in 2011.

On August 15th, the people of Liechtenstein celebrate their Principality in the Schloß Vaduz garden and in the capital city of Vaduz. Far, far away, Liechtensteiners in Hong Kong celebrate in their hearts.

HT discovers a little of the magic of this unique enclave through the thoughts and words of H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein, Dr Aurelia Frick, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education and Culture of the Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein, and Dr Henri Leimer, Honorary Consul of the Principality of Liechtenstein in the HKSAR. They open their hearts to explain the special connections between Liechtenstein and Hong Kong.

From the Alps to Stanley Bay

Liechtenstein and Hong Kong share much in common. Both comprise small territories that, through hard work and uncommon skill, have taken a role in the world that belies their small size. The bonds are not only those of happenstance similarity, but are deeply personal, starting at the top with H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein.

H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein is the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein, meaning he will one day take the throne from his father, H.S.H. Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein and become the Reigning Prince of Liechtenstein. He has been the regent since 2004, but before that, his destiny brought him to Hong Kong.

His relationship with the Fragrant Harbour started in the colonial era, pre-1997. His military adventures at the elite British Royal Military Academy saw him become an officer, posted to join Britain’s oldest continuous regiment in the Regular Army. He served in London and Hong Kong.

“I spent three months in Hong Kong at the end of 1987 and the beginning of 1988 as an officer of the Coldstream Guards. The Coldstream Guards were based in Stanley Fort at that time. I enjoyed my time in Hong Kong at the time and have continued to enjoy my visits ever since,” H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois recalls.

However, the Prince’s Hong Kong presence was preceded by members of Liechtenstein’s vibrant business community. In 1974, Hilti, the world’s leading producer of precision power tools, arrived to capitalise on Hong Kong’s massive building boom. The high quality tools are still produced in its prominent headquarters and factory in Liechtenstein today.

Another business with a connection to the Princes arrived just one year before he did: the family’s private bank, LGT. In 1986, it established its presence in Hong Kong to benefit from opportunities in Asia. From Hong Kong, it expanded to Singapore in 2003.

Ties that bind

This decade has seen the two jurisdictions drawn closer together. In 2011, LGT obtained its full banking license in Hong Kong. And in 2013, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Education and Culture, Dr Aurelia Frick, arrived to open Liechtenstein’s first consulate in Hong Kong. The government knew it had found the right man to represent it in Hong Kong.

“I was very excited when we could open the Honorary Consulate in Hong Kong in June 2013, and appointing our Honorary Consul to Hong Kong, Dr Henri Leimer. We are very grateful to have him as such an able and well connected person representing our mutual interests.”

It wasn’t the first time Dr Frick had been to Hong Kong, and had fond memories of the city, “ My husband used to live and work in Hong Kong. I still love to travel there.” The city seems to love Liechtensteiners back and had already embraced one native son as its own.

A real Liechtensteiner for Hong Kong

Dr Leimer may have taken on a new role representing his native land, but he is not, and was not then, any stranger to Hong Kong. He had arrived in Hong Kong in 1989 – shortly after the Prince’s brief tour of duty. After working with a Swiss bank, he joined LGT and rose through the ranks to become CEO of LGT Private Banking in Asia and Chairman of the Executive Board for the region. He took to the dynamic and free market city. Even his children were born here.

The Hereditary Prince shares Dr Leimer’s affection, albeit from a distance. There are special bonds that join Liechtenstein and Hong Kong.

“My family, but also the majority of the people in Liechtenstein believes in the benefits of a free market system of economics. We are convinced that good regulations of the markets with clear and simple rules that are properly enforced are to the benefit of an economy and also of the state. We consider it also important to have free trade between countries with discrimination-free access to the world markets. As Hong Kong shares this view, we could build up a good working relationship, particular on the issues of good regulation and free trade,” says H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois.

In August 2010, Hong Kong and Liechtenstein signed a Comprehensive Double Taxation Agreement (CDTA), the tenth of its kind in the world. Two years later, Liechtenstein became one of the first three European economies to enter into force a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Hong Kong. The agreement, signed in 2011, covers trade in goods, services and investment as well as trade-related issues such as property rights.

The Good Prince and his Hong Kong “Navy”

Liechtenstein may be a small country in terms of population (a little over 37,000), but it has a big following in Hong Kong. A multi-national force of volunteers comprises the unofficial Liechtenstein Princely Navy, a dragon boat team that competed in 8 major races last year and has accumulated a large supporting sponsor base including LGT. It was the Champion of the Open Cup Final of the Lamma International Dragon Boat Festival (“The Lamma 500”) in 2014.

The Princely Navy on the warpath.

As its tongue-in-cheek website explains, it is, “the largest of Liechtenstein’s forward-deployed naval forces. Its area of responsibility includes over 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, stretching from the International Date Line to the east coast of Africa and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south.” A formidable force indeed, and a welcome part of Hong Kong’s social scene.

Official Princely visits to Hong Kong have not neglected the ‘Navy’, inspiring loyalty from the ‘sailors’. H.S.H. Hereditary Prince Alois was even kind enough to tell his ‘naval officers’ about his own time as a military man in Hong Kong, predating the ‘Navy’s’ founding by ‘Admiral’ Silvan Colani in 2000.

Closing the circle on the social scene, Admiral Colani is not only a talented military man but also a successful banker – by day, he is the CEO of LGT Bank Hong Kong.

Liechtenstein has a long history of engagement in, and with, Hong Kong and a steady development of business, personal and government connections. Through a combination of close personal ties and strong shared values, Liechtenstein and Hong Kong will continue to build their relationship throughout the 21st Century.

[styled_box title=”Liechtenstein at a Glance” class=”sb_red” align=”left” width=”524″]
Size: 160.475 square kilometres
Population: ~37,340
Capital: Vaduz
Official language: German
Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional principality
Currency: Swiss Franc
Sovereign: H.S.H. Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein
Prime Minister: Adrian Hasler

1719 when Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor elevated the territory to Fürstentum (principality) with the name “Liechtenstein” in honour of “[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein”

Education: PISA Ranking (for K-12 education): 8 (#1 in Europe)
Higher Learning:
University of Liechtenstein
Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein Institute
International Academy for Philosophy