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Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee speaks at the opening of the Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit, in Hong Kong, on Nov. 2.PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee has been touting the city’s resilience at a gathering of top financial executives, as he and other officials attempt to repair the Chinese territory’s pandemic-hit image as a major financial hub.

Mr. Lee spoke Wednesday at the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit in Hong Kong, the first major corporate event since the territory shut its borders in 2020 and imposed some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 restrictions.

Those measures badly damaged the economy and led to an exodus of talent, exacerbating concerns about Hong Kong’s future that arose when Beijing launched a concerted crackdown on the city’s democracy movement. In a recent index of global financial centres, Hong Kong slipped to fourth place, overtaken by regional rival Singapore as Asia’s top banking hub.

The convention centre where Mr. Lee delivered his address is only a few blocks away from the courthouse where reporters with the now-shuttered Stand News are currently facing sedition charges, one of numerous prosecutions of journalists and activists launched since the passage of a national security law in mid-2020.

“Law and order has returned,” Mr. Lee said. “Social disturbance is clearly in the past. It has given way to stability, to growing business and community confidence in Hong Kong’s future.”

He and other officials pointed to the presence of many top bankers as an endorsement of their vision for the city’s future, with Finance Secretary Paul Chan thanking attendees for their “unwavering belief in Hong Kong.”

Last week, U.S. lawmakers called on bankers not to attend, saying in a statement that their presence would only serve “to legitimize the swift dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy, free press and the rule of law by Hong Kong authorities acting along with the Chinese Communist Party.”

In their remarks, both Mr. Lee and Mr. Chan emphasized Hong Kong’s connections to mainland China – which remains under a strict zero-COVID policy, even though the rest of Asia has lifted most pandemic restrictions – as a reason to invest in the city.

In a recorded address, Yi Gang, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, said “Hong Kong has great potential in deepening connections with the mainland financial market, financing and investing under the Belt and Road Initiative, fintech and green finance.”

But while they were speaking Wednesday, there was fresh evidence of the continuing toll pandemic restrictions are having on the world’s second-largest economy, as authorities in central China ordered a seven-day lockdown of the area around the world’s largest iPhone factory.

Zhengzhou, in Henan province, has seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases connected to an outbreak at a plant owned by Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn. Already, some 200,000 workers at the factory are in quarantine, while others have fled on foot to avoid lockdown measures. The restrictions could take a major toll on the iPhone manufacturer’s business and cause a drag on production ahead of the Christmas shopping period.

The country’s latest pandemic woes come after a record sell-off of Chinese equities last week, apparently in response to President Xi Jinping securing a historic third term as leader at the Communist Party Congress.

Such concerns went largely unmentioned at Wednesday’s conference, however, with a panel of top bankers, including Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman, focusing instead on global risks.

Sitting alongside them, UBS chair Colm Kelleher said he and his colleagues were “very pro-China,” adding, “We’re not reading the American press, we all buy the [China] story” – a reference to earlier remarks by Fang Xinghai, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, who urged international investors not to “read too much of the international media.”

In his address, delivered by video, Beijing’s top financial regulator said he “would advise international investors to find out what’s really going on in China and what’s the real intention of our government by themselves.”

“Don’t bet against China,” he added. The country’s opening up can only get “bigger and bigger.”

Liu Jin, the president of Bank of China, also said investors should not “read too many negative reports” during his remarks on the country’s property market, which teetered on the brink of collapse this year after regulators attempted to rein in out-of-control borrowing. Mr. Liu said he was still confident the sector could achieve a “soft landing.”

But concerns that property developers might default led to protests in several parts of the country this year. That unrest – including protests and anger over pandemic restrictions – went uncovered by Chinese state media, which routinely paints a rosy picture of the country’s economy.

The only apparent rebuttal to the criticism of foreign media was offered by Mark Carney, a former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, who said in an aside during comments on the state of Britain: “I believe what I read or hear from the international media.”

He offered perhaps the gloomiest outlook of the day: “We’re headed very likely to a global recession,” given the current situation in China, Europe and the United States.

“It’s a bit like air travel in North America these days,” he added. “You know where you’re going, you just don’t know when you’re going to get there.”

With a report from Reuters.