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February 23 - March 1, 2021
COVID-19 vaccination program starts
The Feb 26 launch of Hong Kong’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program received an enthusiastic public response, with a cumulative total of about 27,000 people receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Mar 1. To date, a cumulative total of over 228,000 persons have made reservations for vaccination. With the arrival of the Comirnaty vaccine, jointly developed by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, in Hong Kong on Feb 27, appointments to receive the vaccine can be made online starting Mar 3. Hong Kong residents can decide on their vaccine choices. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government has procured three vaccines from different technology platforms with a total of 22.5 million doses, which would be sufficient for vaccinating all the people in Hong Kong. With the smooth implementation of the vaccination program, Chief Executive Carrie Lam appealed to the public to get vaccinated as it not only protects oneself, it also protects families and friends as well as the community. It will also help Hong Kong get through the epidemic.  
Group gathering limit eased
Taking into account that the local COVID-19 epidemic has continued to subside, as well as the need for society to resume social and economic activities, the HKSAR Government is relaxing social distancing measures in a gradual and orderly manner. This include increasing the number of people allowed in group gatherings in public places from two to four. In view of the continued severe global COVID-19 epidemic situation, the HKSAR Government announced (Feb 27) that it is necessary to maintain the 21-day compulsory quarantine requirement for people arriving at Hong Kong from overseas. People arriving from the US also have to present proof of a negative result of a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted within 72 hours before the scheduled time of departure of the aircraft. In addition, people who have stayed in Brazil, Ireland, South Africa and the UK for more than two hours on the day of boarding, or during the 21 days before that day, are not allowed to board for Hong Kong. 
2021-22 BUDGET
Financial Secretary unveils 2021-22 Budget
Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced (Feb 24) in his 2021-22 Budget wide-ranging measures to revive Hong Kong’s economy and help people overcome financial difficulties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Chan said he expected a gradual recovery for the economy this year, but warned of financial challenges in the coming few years. The budget introduces counter-cyclical measures costing over US$15 billion. Severely impacted by the global pandemic, Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 6.1% in 2020. In 2021, the Financial Secretary forecasts economic growth of between 3.5% and 5.5%. To help ease financial burden, this year’s budget included a range of relief measures for individuals and businesses. In addition, spending would not be reduced in areas related to people’s livelihood, especially the policy areas of education, social welfare and healthcare. The Financial Secretary also set out various initiatives to reinforce the competitiveness, support the recovery and boost the development of key industries, including financial services, innovation and technology, air cargo, and tourism.
Hong Kong competitive despite duty hike
Hong Kong will continue to thrive as a financial center with a competitive stock market and that will not be affected by a stamp duty hike which will take effect in August, said Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Christopher Hui at a press conference (Feb 25) on the 2021-22 Budget initiatives. Mr Hui said the competitiveness of Hong Kong’s market is contingent to a host of factors, and cost, among others, is just one of many in the overall value chain of a stock transaction. Hong Kong remains very competitive as a stock market as the city does not have withholding tax on dividends nor capital gains tax, which can be found in other jurisdictions. Hong Kong has a host of measures to enhance the appeal of its stock market and capital market at large. “That is why we are still very confident that Hong Kong’s stock market and also our financial center will continue to thrive,” said Mr Hui. 
WTO to handle trade dispute
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed at its meeting (Feb 22) to Hong Kong’s request to establish a panel to consider the dispute raised by the city with respect to the violation of WTO rules by the US’s new requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products. Permanent Representative of the HKSAR to the WTO Laurie Lo reiterated Hong Kong’s strong objection, pointing out that the new requirement is not only unjustifiable but also inconsistent with a number of WTO rules and it damages Hong Kong’s interests as a WTO member. It is therefore necessary to set up a panel to follow up on the matter, he explained. The Commerce & Economic Development Bureau said that pursuant to the Basic Law, the HKSAR is a separate customs territory and may, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, participate in international organizations such as the WTO and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation as a separate member, and develop mutually beneficial economic and trade relations with economies around the world. Hong Kong's special status has been widely recognized and respected by the international community and the city’s economic and trade status is on par with that of other WTO members.
Chief Executive attends bay area ceremony
Chief Executive Carrie Lam attended the “Greater Bay Area - Starting Line to a Bright Future” ceremony (Feb 26) with youth development as the theme. The HKSAR Government is committed to giving new impetus to Hong Kong's economic development through participating in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area). It will step up its publicity and promotional efforts to encourage Hong Kong people to participate more proactively in the development. “Young people are brimming with energy and vitality, and are full of hope and vision for their future. The Greater Bay Area provides a stage to realize their aspirations,” said Mrs Lam at the ceremony. “The HKSAR Government wishes to encourage Hong Kong young people to aim high and explore opportunities beyond Hong Kong, and unleash their potential on a bigger platform through starting a new business or pursuing a career of their interest in the Greater Bay Area.” 
Stability and order restored
The implementation of the National Security Law makes no change to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which confers Hong Kong’s independent judiciary, free from any interference along with the power of final adjudication in the Court of Final Appeal, said Secretary for Security John Lee at a side event webinar at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (Mar 1). “Hong Kong residents enjoy not just the same rights and freedoms that they have always been enjoying as enshrined in the Basic Law but also extra protection from national security threats which have rocked Hong Kong in the earlier long period of violence, chaos and harm to persons,” he said, adding that stability and order have been restored with the city is steadily proceeding on the path of recovery and potential growth. Mr Lee reiterated that in Hong Kong, no person is above the law regardless of status, wealth, political power or background. “The National Security Law is applied fairly. Enforcement actions and trials are based on facts and evidence. Judgments are made public with elaborate reasoning on decisions,” he said.
Free arts and cultural programs online
If you missed the spectacular opening performance - Music About China by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra – of the 49th Hong Kong Arts Festival, it is now available for free viewing online through Mar 4 (7 am EST), with no additional registration required.

In addition, museums in Hong Kong are transforming their galleries into site-specific performance spaces for local artists to shine. Unlock your imagination and immerse yourself in the mesmerizing performances by Hong Kong talents on the stages of the many museums in Hong Kong in this 11-part video series “Tour de Force – Museum X Performing Art”.

If dance and martial arts are up your alley, check out the “Convergence” performance by Hong Kong Dance Company that captures the transient between stillness and motion, tranquility and exuberance. Both programs can be viewed on the Hong Kong Arts and Cultural Experience webpage. 
  • The HKSAR Government recorded a US$7.1 billion surplus in January, with expenditure at US$6 billion and revenue at US$13.1 billion. Fiscal reserves stood at US$121.4 billion as at Jan 31.

  • January’s value of Hong Kong’s total exports grew to US$49.7 billion, a 44% year-on-year increase while the value of goods import rose 37.7% to US$52.9 billion in the same comparison period. A trade deficit of US$3.2 billion, or 6.1% of the value of imports, was recorded for the period. 
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: Has there been any interference in the independence of the Judiciary?
A: No. Hong Kong's robust and respected court system exercises judicial power independently, free from any interference. The power of final adjudication is vested in the Court of Final Appeal of the HKSAR, which may as required invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on the Court of Final Appeal. The principle of trial by jury previously practiced in Hong Kong is maintained. (BL Articles 2; 19; 81; 82; 85; 86)
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