FirstFT: Hong Kong leader tests positive for Covid after Xi meeting

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Hong Kong’s chief executive has tested positive for Covid-19 just days after interacting with his boss, President Xi Jinping of China, at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok.

John Lee was seated next to Xi during a meeting on November 18 and also stood next to him at an event the day before, potentially one of Xi’s closest known brushes with the virus since the start of the pandemic.

China has been following a strict zero-Covid policy, routinely forcing millions into quarantines and home lockdowns despite the huge economic and psychological costs. Neither politician wore a mask on the two occasions they met.

“[John Lee is] undergoing isolation,” the Hong Kong government said on Monday. Lee tested positive upon his return to the Chinese territory on Sunday.

The news comes as confusion deepens over the future of China’s zero-Covid policy, with any reopening closely watched by investors who hope it will pave the way for an economic recovery.

1. Disney executives staged revolt against ousted chief Senior Walt Disney executives led a rebellion against chief executive Bob Chapek in recent weeks, which resulted in his ousting and replacement with predecessor Bob Iger, according to people familiar with the matter.

2. Sinopec secures one of biggest LNG deals with Qatar The Chinese energy group has secured one of the biggest-ever liquefied natural gas deals, signing a 27-year agreement to purchase 4mn tonnes a year of the fuel from QatarEnergy. The agreement announced yesterday comes as Europe races to secure alternative supplies of natural gas in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • More energy news: Oil prices rebounded from a 10-month low yesterday after Saudi Arabia “categorically” denied a report that Opec was weighing an increase in output that would help to counteract the loss of Russian supplies.

3. Two Estonians accused of $575mn crypto fraud Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin have been arrested and charged in connection with what US prosecutors described as a $575mn cryptocurrency fraud and money laundering scheme. The two Estonian citizens have been indicted on accusations of defrauding hundreds of thousands of victims, according to the US Department of Justice.

4. Teams ditch rainbow armband plan after Fifa threat A bid by European teams to promote inclusion during the World Cup collapsed yesterday after three countries said Fifa’s threats forced them to abandon plans to wear rainbow-themed captains’ armbands. The teams had planned to wear the One Love armbands to send a message against discrimination while playing in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

England’s Harry Kane wearing the One Love armband
England’s Harry Kane wearing the One Love armband in late September © Nick Potts/PA

5. Erdoğan signals possible ground offensive in northern Syria Turkey could expand military operations against Kurdish militants in northern Syria to include a land incursion, president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, threatening to escalate tensions in a region where US and Russian troops are present. “This is not limited to just an air campaign,” Erdoğan said, according to a readout from his office yesterday.

The day ahead

OECD economic forecast The group will release its latest Economic Outlook, containing projections for the world economy.

Astana format talks on Syria Delegations from Russia, Turkey, Iran, Syria’s government and the Syrian opposition will gather in Astana, Kazakhstan, to discuss humanitarian, socio-economic and political issues in Syria. Representatives from the UN, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq will attend as observers. 

FTX bankruptcy hearing An initial court hearing is set for Tuesday morning local time in the federal bankruptcy court in Delaware in front of Judge John Dorsey.

Join leaders including Singapore’s minister of trade and industry, the deputy chair, CEO and executive director of Mewah International Inc. and more on November 23 in Singapore at The Westin and online to speak about the future of the commodities industry. Register here for your in person or digital pass today.

What else we’re reading

China’s Pacific aid falls short of pledges In 2017, Papua New Guinea’s government announced a A$4.1bn ($2.6bn) upgrade of the nation’s potholed highways, funded by development loans from China. Five years on, there has been no progress as Beijing’s development spending sputters despite efforts to build influence in the region.

Iranians put jobs before pro-democracy protests Industrial action was instrumental in the overthrow of the monarchy during the 1979 Islamic revolution. But amid one of the largest and longest-lasting demonstrations in its Iran’s history, spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini, workers this time around have responded cautiously.

Anti-war protests stretch across central and eastern Europe “Germany is serving as a puppet exclusively for American interests and those of Nato,” the first orator said to a hundreds-strong crowd. In Germany, some protests over the impact of the Ukraine conflict have been organised by the radical left and some by the populist right.

The Gulf is partying while it can If you want to escape the global gloom, just take a flight from its epicentre, London, to any leading capital of the Gulf, the only region in the world where economic growth forecasts are rising, writes Ruchir Sharma.

Big Pharma targets $50bn obesity drugs market as demand booms The race to launch a new generation of drugs to tackle obesity — a disease that affects about 650mn people worldwide — has caused unease among some critics, who warn about their potential misuse and side-effects.

Books

From business and sport to audio books, our annual round-up brings you top titles picked by FT writers and critics — as well as FT readers’ best books of 2022.

Two people carrying books walk through a landscape

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