Interview with Per Augustsson, New Consul General appointed in Hong Kong

We have the pleasure to have had interviewed Per Augustsson, who is newly appointed as the Consul General in Hong Kong, to share his insights on various hot topics in Hong Kong.

Can you tell us more about yourself, and your experience as a diplomat?

I joined the Swedish foreign service in 1992 and have worked in various positions at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Government Offices in Stockholm, as well as at several Swedish missions abroad. My work in Stockholm has covered areas such as for example UN affairs and EU policies. And before I came to Hong Kong I was Deputy Head of the MFA Personnel Department for three years. My previous assignments abroad have included Deputy Head of Mission at our embassies in Beijing and London and work at the Swedish UN Mission in New York and our embassy in Zagreb. On temporary leave from the service I have enjoyed several years at a think tank in Washington D.C. and also as a spouse and stay-home dad while my wife Gabriella – who is also an MFA colleague – worked. She will join me here in Hong Kong and we very much look forward to meeting people and exploring Hong Kong and the great hiking trails around the city!

How do you find Hong Kong compared to the other cities you have worked in? Is there anything you particularly love, and anything you find it hard to adjust to in Hong Kong?

I and my wife have enjoyed and learned a lot from all our postings. Every city has its special character. Hong Kong is a truly unique place with so much to offer. It’s very dynamic. Nature is just around the corner. The food is fantastic. And people are both friendly and impressive in many ways. Meeting and interacting with people is always the most important part of living abroad and we look forward to getting to know many Hongkongers. Even if times are tough, I feel sure that this city will give us many important and enjoyable experiences and insights.

Hong Kong and Sweden have tackled the COVID-19 pandemic with very different approaches.  How do you perceive the differences?  Do you think there are aspects which we can learn from each other?

The pandemic is a global challenge and there are both differences and similarities in terms of measures taken in different parts of the world. The Consulate General recently organized a webinar with the Dean of Medicine at Hong Kong University, Professor Gabriel Leung, and Sweden’s State Epidemiologist Dr. Anders Tegnell which gave some very valuable insights from two leading experts from different parts of the world in to what we have learned so far and what we can expect going forward. I think it illustrated how we are learning from each other and building knowledge together.

The last 18 months in Hong Kong has been extraordinary and turbulent with protests and pandemic.  How does the situation affect the work plan and priorities of the consulate?

The pandemic has affected our work in a number of ways. We have, like other work places, taken measures to reduce and minimize the risk of exposure and spread of the virus. The health of both our staff and people we interact with has been and is a priority. Many planned activities and events have been reshaped, postponed or in a few cases cancelled. We have learned to make more use of other ways to reach out and interact, for example through webinars and increased online activities. Some of these new working methods will stay with us beyond the pandemic. The political developments in Hong Kong are being followed closely by the whole world and have naturally affected our work as well. There is a great deal of interest in Sweden in what is happening here.

The Chinese government has always been propelling the development of the Greater Bay Area. Do you think it would open substantial opportunities for Swedish companies?  How would the consulate help Swedish companies explore such opportunities?

Both the Consulate General in Hong Kong and our embassy in Beijing are following this development. Business Sweden in Hong Kong together with the Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong work extensively with supporting businesses with advice and networks including in the Greater Bay Area. A lot is happening in technology and innovation in this area and there is a strong and increasing interest from Swedish companies to learn more about business opportunities.

Photo: Sara Brynedal