December 1 - 7, 2020
Suspending exchange visits short-sighted
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government said in a statement that the US State Department’s decision to terminate visits to Hong Kong under a longstanding program is short-sighted and premised on false assumptions. The Hong Kong Cultural & Exchange Programme has been running for many years and provided valuable opportunities for US Congressional staffers to gain first-hand insight into Hong Kong’s development and issues of mutual interest. These visits also provided Hong Kong officials with the opportunity to better understand the thinking and concerns of US administrations over the years and to engage in frank exchanges on the basis of mutual respect. Feedback received from guests under the program had been quite positive. Visiting delegations were free to meet with whom they pleased outside of the agreed itinerary while in Hong Kong. The program has always been the responsibility of and funded solely by the HKSAR Government.
US report refuted
Refuting the report issued by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the HKSAR Government said (Dec 2) it has the determination and capability to safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity, stability and financial security for investors to continue operating here. Capitalizing on the strengths of “One Country, Two Systems”, Hong Kong will harness the tremendous opportunities presented by the sustained reform and opening up of the Mainland market buttressed by Hong Kong’s adherence to and connectivity with international rules and standards. Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center will not change. In the statement, a government spokesman also pointed out that enacting laws on national security with extraterritorial effect is squarely in line with international practice. Hong Kong people can continue to enjoy their basic rights and freedoms in accordance with the law.
Judicial independence guaranteed
The allegation made by the US State Department that there is “political persecution” in Hong Kong is totally unsubstantiated and baseless. In a statement issued by the HKSAR Government, it stated that judges in Hong Kong are chosen only for their judicial and professional qualities, and they are not subject to any political vetting. Hong Kong courts only decide cases in accordance with the law and evidence, with judicial independence guaranteed under Article 85 of the Basic Law which is practiced and respected internationally. The Judiciary will continue to exercise the judicial power including that of the final adjudication independently, free from any interference.
Robust IP framework key to innovation and creativity
With a robust intellectual property (IP) regime pivotal to innovation and creativity, the HKSAR Government is committed to maintaining an IP regime in line with international standards and continually responds to changing needs. Speaking at the Business of Intellectual Property Asia Forum (Dec 3), Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Hong Kong has launched the original grant patent system, which allows applicants to apply directly for a standard patent in Hong Kong without having to first register their patents outside. In June this year, the Trade Marks (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 was enacted, providing the legal basis for applying the Madrid Protocol to Hong Kong. In the same month, the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 came into effect, enhancing statutory copyright exceptions for people with a print disability, allowing them to meet the relevant Marrakesh Treaty. 
Vast opportunities for design industry
The post-pandemic world will make significant demands on architects and designers, offering vast opportunities for the design industry, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the opening of Business of Design Week (Dec 3). She said the HKSAR Government attaches importance to innovative design, for business and for the wellbeing of the people of Hong Kong. In her latest annual Policy Address, the government has an additional US$130 million for the CreateSmart Initiative to support further promotion of the creative industries in Hong Kong. There are also opportunities for the design industry in areas such as the environment, the harborfront, old districts revitalization, or the West Kowloon Cultural District. The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area also offers huge potential in design, architecture and the creative industries. 
Smart and green is key to shipping
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan said the COVID-19 pandemic has given the impetus to accelerate the adoption of technologies in the maritime sector, adding that being smart and green is key to the future of shipping. Speaking at a maritime forum (Dec 1), Mr Chan said Hong Kong will work in tandem with both the local and global shipping community to further explore the adoption of smart solutions ranging from e-certs to automation, robotics and artificial intelligence to mitigate operational challenges and capture business opportunities. Hong Kong is also examining further tax incentives for shipping commercial principals to foster continual growth of the maritime cluster and attract more maritime principals to Hong Kong.
Air travel bubble deferred
In view of the recent developments of the COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong, the Governments of the HKSAR and Singapore have decided to defer the commencement of the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble (ATB) to beyond 2020 and will review the arrangement for 2021 towards late December. A HKSAR Government spokesman said (Dec 1) that subsequent to the deferral announcement on Nov 21, the two Governments have been closely monitoring the epidemic situation in both places. The decision on a further deferral of the launch date of the ATB was taken in view of the severity of the epidemic situation in Hong Kong with the number of local cases of unknown sources increasing rapidly.
Social distancing measures tightened
Social distancing measures in Hong Kong have been further tightened in view of the latest epidemic situation. The number of people allowed in group gatherings and allowed per table in a restaurant are both reduced. Restaurants will also have shorter dine-in hours. More entertainment venues like cinemas, museums and theme parks are closed. Bars, clubs and party rooms remain closed. Fitness centers, along with beauty parlors and massage establishments can stay open with stricter requirements. Fines for violating social distancing rules has been raised in order to create the necessary deterrence effect. The HKSAR Government strongly urges all residents to stay at home as much as possible, avoid going out unless necessary, dine out less often, reduce the frequency of all mask-off activities, and stop all unnecessary social activities, especially meal gatherings across family bubbles.
Cannabis or THC products are illegal in Hong Kong
While some parts of the United States have legalized or decriminalized cannabis as well as products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for recreational use such as candies, snacks, coffee, alcoholic beverages, skin-care and hair products, cannabis and products containing THC are dangerous drugs in Hong Kong. US visitors traveling to Hong Kong are reminded that it is an offense under Hong Kong laws to bring dangerous drugs into Hong Kong without authorization. The maximum penalty of trafficking dangerous drugs is life imprisonment and a fine of US$641,025.
  • The value of total retail sales in October, provisionally estimated at US$3.5 billion, fell 8.8% year-on-year. The decline narrowed in October as consumption sentiment improved amid the stable epidemic situation in that month.

  • Total port cargo throughput in the third quarter of 2020 fell by 5.7%, year-on-year, to 63.3 million tonnes. In the same period, the port of Hong Kong handled 4.70 million TEUs of containers, a 1.8% year-on-year rise while the number of ocean vessel arrivals decreased by 15.9% year-on-year to 5,379.

  • Hong Kong’s foreign currency reserves amounted to US$486 billion as at end-November, compared with US$474.9 billion at end-October. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at end-November.
Hong Kong and its Basic Law
The Basic Law (BL) is the constitutional document of the HKSAR. Put into effect on July 1, 1997, it enshrines within a legal document the important concept of “One Country, Two Systems”.

Q: Are Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy?

A: In accordance with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the National People’s Congress enacted the Basic Law, authorizing the HKSAR to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial powers, including that of final adjudication, in accordance with the Basic Law. The Central People’s Government (CPG) shall be responsible for the foreign affairs and defense relating to the HKSAR and other matters authorized by the Basic Law. It also authorizes the HKSAR to conduct relevant external affairs on its own in accordance with the Basic Law. Hong Kong is not required to pay taxes to the CPG. (BL Articles 2; 12-17; 19; 22; 106)
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