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January 12 - 19, 2021
Asian Financial Forum opens
Hong Kong’s fundamentals remain strong amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Delivering the opening address at the 14th Asian Financial Forum (Jan 18), Mrs Lam said, “Hong Kong’s financial system has demonstrated its strengths and resilience. Our financial markets continue to operate orderly, and that includes the Linked Exchange Rate System.” With its unique advantages as the international financial center of China and one of the world’s major financial cities, Hong Kong will continue to see enormous opportunities when the pandemic is over, she added. Chairing a plenary session during the forum, Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Christopher Hui shared insights on the role of the financial services sector in contributing to the bolstering of economic recovery and the opportunities for financial services in the new economic landscape. The two-day forum also featured various sessions including the Fintech Showcase, FintechHK Start-up Salon, InnoVenture Salon, Deal Flow Matchmaking Session and Fireside Chat in virtual formats. More than 5,000 policymakers, financial experts, business leaders, economists, investors and entrepreneurs attended the event, co-organized by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
Hong Kong a premier fund hub
Hong Kong boosted its status as Asia’s premier fund hub with the introduction of the open-ended fund company and limited partnership fund regimes in 2018 and 2020, respectively, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan on the second day of the Asian Financial Forum (Jan 19). The partnership between the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and MSCI also reinforces Hong Kong’s position as a premier risk management center of choice. Mr Chan said Hong Kong’s gateway role is also primed to grow with enormous opportunities arising from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The Wealth Management Connect scheme will boost product diversity and asset-allocation options, while vastly expanding the sector's prospective market. The upsurge in cross-boundary funds will, in turn, consolidate Hong Kong’s position as the premier global hub for the offshore Renminbi business.
WTO trade dispute request explained
The HKSAR Government requested (Jan 14) the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish a panel to consider a dispute with respect to the US’ new requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau also wrote to the US Trade Representative to inform the US that the HKSAR has taken further action against the US under the WTO mechanism. “The US' unilateral and irresponsible attempt to weaken Hong Kong's status as a separate customs territory, which is conferred by the Basic Law, is highly inappropriate,” Mr Yau said, adding that such a move confuses the market and undermines the rules-based multilateral trading system. Mr Yau said it is necessary for Hong Kong to take further action as the US has not made any substantive response. Mr Yau pointed out that the “Made in Hong Kong” marking on Hong Kong products has been accepted internationally for many years, conforming to Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory and complying with WTO rules. It also provides consumers with clear and accurate information on product origin.
Social distancing measures to be extended
Current social distancing measures in Hong Kong will be extended until at least Jan 27 due to the latest COVID-19 pandemic situation. Dine-in service in restaurants must end at 6 pm, with no more than two people seated together at one table. Bars and pubs, along with other public venues, remain close. The prohibition on group gatherings of more than two people in public places and the mandatory mask-wearing requirement also remain in force. The work-from-home arrangements for civil servants would also be extended until Jan 27. Due to the risks of more transmissible virus strains in Brazil and Ireland, people who have spent more than two hours in either of these places will not be allowed to board flights for Hong Kong, beginning Jan 23. The boarding restrictions for the UK and South Africa will continue to be maintained. 
Advisory panel recommends COVID-19 vaccine
The Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Vaccines recommended (Jan 18) authorizing the vaccine developed by BioNTech in collaboration with Fosun Pharma for emergency use in Hong Kong. Panel Convenor Prof Wallace Lau explained that the panel has looked into the documents and data related to the safety, efficacy and quality of the BioNTech vaccine and agreed that the benefits of using it outweigh the risks. The panel will advise the HKSAR Government to take follow-up action or even stop using the vaccine if it is proved to have greater risks, he said. Earlier (Jan 13), Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan told lawmakers that members of the public in Hong Kong can get vaccinated through the government vaccination programs free of charge from February, with the goal of providing vaccines for the majority of the population within this year.
Government strongly opposes US report
The HKSAR Government strongly objects (Jan 15) to the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s newly released 2020 annual report. In a statement, the HKSAR Government said safeguarding national security through legislation is in line with international practice. The National Security Law clearly stipulates four types of offenses endangering national security and the penalties. Law-abiding people, including Hong Kong residents and overseas tourists/investors, will not unwittingly violate the law. At the same time, the National Security Law contains specific provisions upholding Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms under the Basic Law as well as the relevant provisions of international covenants on human rights as applied to Hong Kong. In a separate statement (Jan 16) in response to the US government’s measures against six Hong Kong and Chinese officials, the HKSAR Government said features such as the presumption of innocence, the prohibition of double jeopardy, and the right to defend oneself and other rights in judicial proceedings that a criminal suspect, defendant and other parties in judicial proceedings are entitled to under the law, put the National Security Law on par with, if not superior to, similar national security laws in other jurisdictions, including those enacted in the US. 
Free streaming of ballet and music performances
Be entertained and dazzled by Septime Webre’s unforgettable adaptation of “The Great Gatsby”, which tells an extraordinary tale of abundant wealth, stunning excess and dark obsession. Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great American Novel”, with sets and costumes by Academy Award-winning designer Tim Yip and live jazz accompaniment the Hong Kong Ballet’s “The Great Gatsby” overflows with extravagant dancing, decadent parties and steamy jazz music! Enjoy the highlights of this extravaganza on the dedicated “The Hong Kong Arts and Cultural Experience” webpage. Also featured is a beautiful bassoon recital by Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’s Principal Bassoon Benjamin Moermond, together with pianist Anson Wong, as part of the Philharmonic's "Meet Our Principals" program. Wong studied bassoon with Moermond before, which makes this performance of two talents with a longstanding musical partnership precious. The program also features contra-bassoonist Adam Treverton Jones, who joins in Bozza’s Duettino for Two Bassoons, a delightful and playful piece that showcases the virtuosity of the bassoonists.
  • The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.6% for the Oct – Dec period compared to the previous three-month period. The underemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.4% for the period.

  • Hong Kong’s total goods exports increased 6.2% year-on-year in November while the volume of goods imports for the month rose 5.2% over November 2019. Prices of goods exports and imports both decreased by 0.2% year-on-year for the month. The total export volume to the US grew 2.4%, with total export prices down 0.1%. 
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: 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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