February 25 – March 2, 2020


2020-21 Budget promotes economic diversification

Adopting an expansionary fiscal stance, Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced (Feb 26) a wide range of measures to tackle the current economic difficulties and to support the community in his 2020-21 Budget, which aims to strengthen Hong Kong’s pillar industries, identify new growth engines and foster talent.

The Financial Secretary set out a series of proposals to fortify the city’s competitiveness as an international financial center and to support the Innovation & Technology sector. The Government will also implement counter-cyclical measures to help support enterprises and relieve hardship.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam welcomed and supported the bold and substantive proposals in the 2020-21 Budget. She expressed confidence that they will help to boost efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic, take care of people in need and bolster the economy


Port health measures strengthened

In light of the health risks arising from the COVID-19 outbreak in Korea, Iran and Italy, the Hong Kong SAR Government had issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert on Korea (Feb 24), Iran and for three regions in Italy: Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto (Feb 28). Under the red alert, those who plan to travel to the areas concerned are urged to adjust travel plans and avoid non-essential travel. The Department of Health has also started compulsory quarantine orders on all people arriving Hong Kong, regardless of whether they are Hong Kong residents, from the aforementioned places. The Centre for Health Protection will also enforce stricter reporting criteria to enhance surveillance of suspected cases.

Assistance for Hong Kong cruise passengers continues

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department and the Department of Health have reinforced their staff to Japan to continue to assist Hong Kong passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are still in Japan. They include patients who are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and hospitalized, and close contacts of the confirmed cases now under quarantine at land quarantine facilities.

Hong Kong people in Wuhan to be flown back

The first batch of chartered flights to bring Hong Kong people from Hubei to Hong Kong will mainly assist those stranded in Wuhan, the Hong Kong SAR Government announced (Feb 25). The Government will borne the cost of the flights, and the Wuhan Economic & Trade Office (ETO) will arrange transport to bring these people to the airport in Wuhan. The people who take the chartered flights must be Hong Kong identity card holders and must pre-register with the Immigration Department or the Wuhan ETO. Health screenings will be conducted for each passenger before boarding. Those with fever, abnormal vital signs, respiratory tract symptoms or other signs of infectious diseases will not be allowed on the plane. Taking into consideration the potential public health risk, those concerned will be quarantined for 14 days upon arriving in Hong Kong.


Crime rises in 2019

Hong Kong recorded a total of 59,225 cases of crimes in 2019, a 9.2% year-on-year increase, according to statistics released by the Hong Kong Police (Mar 2). Law and order in the city improved for 12 consecutive years and the situation remained stable in the first half of 2019 with a 4.7% drop in overall crime compared with the same period in 2018. However, the trend reversed in the second half of 2019, with social unrest stemming from protests against the extradition bill since last June.

Community urged to stay united

A spokesman of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government condemned (Mar 1) rioters’ acts of vandalism in Mong Kok (Feb 29), which breached public peace and seriously jeopardized the safety of members of the public. The Police used minimum necessary force to conduct dispersal and arrest operations, and will seriously follow up on these acts, which totally disregard law and order. The spokesman also strongly condemned the malicious behavior of damaging medical facilities in Kwai Chung, which caused innocent patients to suffer. “At this difficult juncture, a small number of radicals still conducted violent acts of vandalism which disregard law and order. Their behavior is outrageous. We strongly believe that Hong Kong people will stay united and fight against the disease together, help the Hong Kong community to withstand the current difficulties and gear up for a brighter tomorrow,” he said.


Public services to resume in a safe and orderly manner

More public services in government bureaux/departments gradually resumed on March 2, in a smooth and orderly manner, with the implementation of targeted measures to reduce social contact and infection control to protect the health of their staff and members of the public. These included introducing flexible working hours to reduce staff using public transport during peak hours, and adopting a roster system to reduce the number of staff working in an office at any one time. The Government has also implemented various infection control measures such as enhancing the cleansing of public facilities, checking the body temperature of persons entering government buildings and offices, and providing alcohol hand sanitiser and sanitising mats, etc. The Government's ultimate goal is to resume full public services when conditions permit.


Full postal services resumed

Following the resumption of daily delivery services since February 12, Hongkong Post announced (Feb 29) that all post offices will resume their normal business hours starting from March 2, and that collection from posting boxes will also resume on a daily basis on the same date. Since after the Lunar New Year up to Feb 29, Hongkong Post has completed the delivery of 150,000 mail items containing surgical masks. Hongkong Post will continue to uphold the principle of according top priority for the delivery of surgical masks, committing to fulfilling its delivery duties by having all inbound items of surgical masks delivered to the hands of the public. Services for inbound and outbound mail are still subject to delays due to the reduction in the flight frequencies of airlines.



· Total exports and imports of goods both recorded year-on-year decreases, at 22.7% and 16.4% respectively in January. The value of total exports of goods fell to US$34.5 billion while the value of imports of goods decreased to US$38.4 billion. A visible trade deficit of US$3.9 billion, equivalent to 10.2% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded.

· Hong Kong recorded a surplus of US$9.6 billion in January, thereby bringing a cumulative year-to-date surplus of US$3.2 billion after receipt of net proceeds of US$1 billion from issuance of green bonds under the Government Green Bond Programme and repayment of institutional notes of US$192 million. Expenditure for the 10-month period amounted to US$59.2 billion and revenue US$61.6 billion).

· Total assets of the Exchange Fund amounted to US$537.6 billion as at January 31. This is US$8.3 billion lower than that at the end of December. Hong Kong dollar assets decreased by US$6 billion and foreign currency assets decreased by US$2.3 billion. The Monetary Base rose by 1.6% to US$216.5 billion. Backing Assets increased by 1.4% US$240.2 billion.

· January’s retail sales value, provisionally estimated at US$4.8 billion, dropped by 21.4% year-on-year. The value of sales of jewelry, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts dropped 41.6%. With the austere business environment of retail trade amid the threat of COVID-19, which has brought inbound tourism almost to a standstill and caused severe disruptions to consumption-related activities, the Government will closely monitor the situation and its repercussion on the overall economy and the employment market.


Hong Kong and its Basic Law

The Basic Law (BL) is the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Put into effect on July 1, 1997, it enshrines within a legal document the important concept of “One Country, Two Systems”.

Q: Can foreign enterprises participate fully in Hong Kong’s economy?

A: Yes. Hong Kong welcomes and encourages the participation of foreign enterprises, and provides a level playing field for all. There are no foreign exchange controls in Hong Kong and no restrictions on the trading of gold, securities, futures and the like. The Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong shall maintain the status of a free port, pursue the policy of free trade and safeguard the free movement of goods, intangible assets and capital. (BL Articles 112; 114; 115)

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Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York

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