Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told the Legislative Council on Thursday that the government had to make a choice on accepting new immigrants in light of Hong Kong's capacity constraints.
Millionaires holding foreign passports could become Hong Kong residents under the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme before it was suspended effective midnight Thursday.
Immigration and investment consultants were shocked by the abrupt end of a lucrative business. About 12,000 applications had been filed for the capital entrant scheme between April 2013 and September 2014. Dozens more were stuffed into the application box before the midnight deadline.
Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, a lawmaker representing the financial services, wanted to know at the question-and-answer session whether the move indicated an end to the city's strategic positioning as an asset management hub.
The city chief assured lawmakers that the authorities are not giving up efforts to expand the financial sector of Hong Kong. Capital investments would remain important, but CY Leung said the city's capacity constraints meant it could not let its population grow without a limit.
Hong Kong's current economic position is vastly different from that in 2003 when the Capital Entrant Scheme was launched and it was no longer in need, said Leung, who did not elaborate if the scheme had been shelved for good.
The government source had said on Wednesday that the government would still welcome investors who came with sound business plans to start operations in Hong Kong that would make concrete contributions to its economy.