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January 26 - February 1, 2021
Hong Kong gears up for vaccination program
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government is working at full steam to prepare its COVID-19 vaccination program, with the goal of arranging vaccination for the public as soon as possible according to priority groups and upon approval of vaccines for use and their arrival in Hong Kong, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam (Jan 27) in her monthly article on the anti-epidemic strategy in Hong Kong. She added that the Government is also approaching a fourth vaccine supplier in the hope of purchasing a fourth type of vaccine developed from a different technology platform. A one-stop COVID-19 vaccination program website has been launched to provide official and up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccines. The website will also provide detailed information on the vaccination program after its formal launch and will be linked to the online booking system where people can reserve their vaccination slot at a selected location. Separately, the Government will closely monitor the development of the situation of the European Union’s announcement of implementing an export control mechanism for vaccines.
Concerted effort needed in virus fight
In view of the serious COVID-19 epidemic situation, existing social distancing measures in Hong Kong will be extended through Feb 3. In addition, the HKSAR Government may use the restriction-testing declaration for restricted areas again to combat COVID-19 in the future. Thanking members of the public for cooperating with the compulsory measures adopted to prevent and control the spread of the epidemic, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said (Feb 1) that all the compulsory measures taken by the Government amid the epidemic are necessary and with legal basis. Separately, Switzerland the United Arab Emirates have been newly classified as high-risk places and control measures will be tightened for travelers from these two places, effective Feb 2. In battling this unprecedented global pandemic, Mrs Lam urged the public to continue its support for this ongoing concerted efforts in the anti-epidemic work in a proactive manner and with unwavering confidence.
Hong Kong’s gateway role
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Hong Kong has long been a gateway between Mainland China and the world and hopes to play a constructive role between the US and China by leveraging on the city’s unique advantages under “One Country, Two Systems”. Addressing the 2021 Hong Kong Forum on US-China Relations (Jan 26), Mrs Lam pointed out that Hong Kong and the US have enjoyed longstanding success in business, trade and finance, adding that the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is one of the city’s largest international chamber. “We welcome US businesses and individuals to continue contributing to and benefiting from Hong Kong's promising prospects,” she said. Pointing out that Hong Kong is set to benefit from China’s national development, she said the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area will be an excellent entry point. “Beyond innovation and technology, Hong Kong will drive financial services for the region, given our longstanding strengths in financial services, our ability to bridge East and West and the unmatched depth and quality of our professional services,” she said.
Green bond offering successful
The HKSAR Government announced (Jan 27) the successful offering of US$2.5 billion of green bonds under the Government Green Bond Program. The offering, comprising US$1 billion 5-year, US$1 billion 10-year and US$500 million 30-year green bonds, will build a comprehensive benchmark curve for potential issuers in Hong Kong and the region. The 30-year tranche is also the first 30-year green bond to be issued by an Asian government, and the longest tenor to be issued by the HKSAR Government. Proceeds raised under the program will be used to fund projects that will improve the environment and facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the successful offering demonstrates investor confidence in Hong Kong’s long-term credit strengths and economic fundamentals. “The issuance will help catalyze further growth of the green and sustainable bond market, particularly leveraging on Hong Kong's strengths as a leading green finance hub in the region.”
GDP contracts in 2020
Hong Kong’s GDP fell by 6.1% last year, due to the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to advance estimates. GDP fell by 3% in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2020 on a year-on-year comparison, narrowing slightly from the 3.6% decline in the third quarter. The Hong Kong economy recovered further in the fourth quarter of 2020, but at a slower pace due to the fourth wave of the local epidemic. The financial market activity stayed robust, exports and imports of goods strengthened, in contrast with the consumption and tourism-related sectors which were particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. The Hong Kong economy is expected to see positive growth for 2021 as a whole, but the economic situation in the first half of the year will remain challenging and the degree and speed of recovery is subject to a host of uncertainties, especially those about the pandemic situation. The revised figures on GDP and more detailed statistics for the fourth quarter and the whole year of 2020, as well as the real GDP growth forecast for 2021 will be released on Feb 24, 2021 when the 2021-22 Budget is announced.
Chief Executive reports to state leaders
Chief Executive Carrie Lam conducted the annual reporting of work to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang separately via video conferencing (Jan 27), during which she reported to them the latest economic, social and political situation in Hong Kong. While Hong Kong experienced a challenging year in which the city’s economy and livelihoods were hard hit by the epidemic, it essentially functioned normally with the financial system remaining stable. Mrs Lam said the HKSAR Government’s top priority at present is to curb the epidemic to protect people's health and restore economic activities. The Chief Executive said she will lead her team to leverage Hong Kong’s unique advantages to better integrate into the nation’s overall development through its participation in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, thereby advancing the economy and improving livelihoods. Mrs Lam also reiterated that officials of the HKSAR Government will continue to discharge their duty to safeguard national security without fear.
BN(O) passport changes explained
With effect from Jan 31, British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passports cannot be used for immigration clearance and will not be recognized as any form of proof of identity in Hong Kong. The HKSAR Government said the Chinese and British governments reached a consensus long ago on how to deal with the issue of Hong Kong residents holding BN(O) passports and exchanged memoranda on the understanding in 1984. In its memorandum, the UK clearly pledged not to confer the right of abode in the UK on holders of the BN(O) passport who are Chinese nationals in Hong Kong. The current move of the British side has substantively changed the nature of BN(O) passport, and is a fundamental violation of its pledge in its memorandum.
Hong Kong honorees at gala
Recognizing their contributions to promoting closer partnership between China and the US, this year’s China Institute Blue Cloud Gala will present its prestigious Blue Cloud Award to three eminent leaders from Hong Kong: renowned international movie star Jackie Chan, Chairman of Hang Lung Properties Ronnie Chan and Senior Advisor to the Board of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited Charles Li. This year’s event will also incorporate an exciting program line up to celebrate the Lunar New Year, including an energetic and exuberant performance by a young percussion group from Hong Kong – The Refiner Drums! Reserve your free Gala ticket and see you online on Feb 17 at 8 PM (EST). 
  • Hong Kong recorded a US$34.4 billion deficit for the nine months ending Dec 31, with expenditure at US$79.5 billion and revenue of US$45 billion. Fiscal reserves stood at US$114.2 billion at the end of December.

  • Hong Kong’s Exchange Fund recorded an investment income of US$25.3 billion in 2020, with an investment return of 4.4%. For the year as a whole, the fund achieved a decent return on its equity and bond investments.
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: Is Chinese the only official language allowed under the Basic Law?
A: No, in addition to Chinese, English is also an official language used by the executive authorities, the legislature and the judiciary of the HKSAR. (BL Article 9)
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