Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York
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What’s New in Hong Kong 2020

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LegCo General Election postponed for a year

Jul 31, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today that, amid the severe COVID-19 epidemic situation, the 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo) General Election, originally scheduled for September 6, will be postponed for a year to September 5, 2021, in order to protect public safety and public health as well as ensure elections are conducted openly and fairly. Speaking at press conference, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the decision to postpone the 2020 Legislative Council election has nothing to do with politics and was made on the basis of protecting the health of Hong Kong people. Details here.

LegCo General Election postponed for a year
   
Financial results for three months ended June 30

Jul 31, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today its financial results for the three months ended June 30, 2020. Expenditure for the period April to June 2020 amounted to HK$176.8 billion (US$22.6 billion) and revenue HK$67.8 billion (US$8.6 billion), resulting in a cumulative year-to-date deficit of HK$109 billion (US$13.9 billion). The fiscal reserves stood at HK$1,051.3 billion (US$134.7 billion) as at June 30. Details here.

Financial results for three months ended June 30
   
Exchange Fund at US$537.8 billion

Jul 31, 2020 - Total assets of Hong Kong's Exchange Fund amounted to HK$4,195.3 billion (US$537.8 billion) as at June 30. This is HK$113.4 billion (US$14.5 billion) higher than that at the end of May 2020. Hong Kong dollar assets increased by HK$87.2 billion (US$11.1 billion) and foreign currency assets increased by HK$26.2 billion (US$3.3 billion). Backing assets increased by 2% to HK$1,953.1 billion (US$250.3 billion). Details here.

Exchange Fund at US$537.8 billion
   
Support for Hong Kong Community

The Hong Kong SAR Government has unveiled a series of economic relief measures to support individuals and businesses in Hong Kong affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Details of the various measures to preserve the vitality of the economy, retain jobs and relieve people's financial burdens can be found here.

Support for Hong Kong Community
   
Daytime dine-in services allowed

Jul 30, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government has decided to allow the resumption of daytime dine-in services from 5am to 5.59pm with effect from Jul 31, having noted the inconvenience and difficulties the previous arrangement caused the public not working from home. In the latest dine-in arrangements, the number of customers at any catering premises must not exceed 50% of the normal seating capacity of the premises and no more than two people can sit together at one table. Tables available for use or being used by customers must be arranged with a distance of at least 1.5 metres or a partition. Other requirements and restrictions in relation to catering business premises will remain in effect, including wearing a mask at all times except when consuming food or drinks, conducting body temperature screening for people entering the premises and providing hand sanitizers. The Government reiterated that implementation of the temporary cessation of dine-in services was intended to curb the continued spread of the disease in the community by further minimizing eating in groups and social contact in view of the severe epidemic situation. Details here.

Daytime dine-in services allowed
   
Government backs returning officers

Jul 30, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today said it agrees with and supports the decisions of Returning Officers to invalidate 12 nominees for this year's Legislative Council General Election. In a statement, the Government noted that Returning Officers clearly state that, in determining the validity of nominations, the core question is whether the nominee has complied with the declaration requirement under section 40(1)(b)(i) of the Legislative Council Ordinance to uphold the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR. The Returning Officers’ decisions aim to ensure that the election is held in strict accordance with the Basic Law and other applicable laws in an open, honest and fair manner. There is no question of any political censorship, restriction of the freedom of speech or deprivation of the right to stand for elections as alleged by some members of the community, said the statement. Details here.

Government backs returning officers
   
Government extends work arrangement

Jul 30, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today announced that aside from those providing emergency services and essential public services, all other government employees should continue to work from home until August 9. As the local epidemic situation remains severe, it is necessary to continue to take measures to significantly reduce people flow and social contact to stop COVID-19 from further spreading in the community. Government departments will continue to provide emergency and essential public services. The Government also strongly appealed to employers of private organizations to allow their staff to work from home as far as possible. Details here.

Government extends work arrangement
   
Advanced estimates of second quarter GDP

Jul 29, 2020 - According to estimates, Hong Kong's GDP decreased by 9% in real terms in the second quarter of 2020 from a year earlier, compared with the decrease of 9.1% in the first quarter of 2020. The decline of GDP was mainly attributable to the continued weak performance in both domestic and external demand. A Hong Kong SAR Government spokesman said that Hong Kong's overall economic conditions remained very weak in the second quarter of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to severely hit global and local economic activities. Looking ahead, the COVID-19 pandemic will remain a key threat to the global economic outlook. The evolving China-US relations and heightened geopolitical tensions also add to uncertainties. The finalized GDP figures for the second quarter of 2020, along with the revised GDP forecast for 2020 will be released on August 14. Details here.

Advanced estimates of second quarter GDP
   
Stand united to fight COVID-19

Jul 28, 2020 - With Hong Kong facing a new wave of COVID-19 infections, the Hong Kong SAR Government has put in place the most stringent measures ever in enforcing social distancing. Frontline staff are battling the surge. The Government is seeking to enhance testing capability and set up a community treatment facility. Chief Executive Carrie Lam appealed to the public to cooperate and strictly adhere to social distancing measures and stay at home as far as possible. "If we stand united and work together, we can suppress this epidemic again," she said. Details here.

Stand united to fight COVID-19
   
Tightened testing and quarantine arrangement for sea and air crew in effect

Jul 28, 2020 - ​The tightened testing and quarantine arrangement for sea crew and air crew members entering Hong Kong, announced earlier (Jul 26), has come into effect to strengthen the prevention of imported cases under the current severe epidemic situation. With effect from 0:00 am on July 29 (Hong Kong time), crew change arrangement for all passenger vessels and goods vessels without cargo operation will be suspended. All air crew and incoming sea crew members of goods vessels coming to Hong Kong for cargo operation arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport must obtain a negative result of nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted at a recognized laboratory within 48 hours prior to boarding. They must also submit a deep throat saliva specimen at the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre (TSCC) of the Department of Health upon arrival to Hong Kong for testing purpose. All incoming sea crew members and those air crew members who do not possess negative test results must wait at the TSCC or other designated location until their test results are confirmed negative. Incoming and outgoing sea crew members must only travel between the vessels and HKIA and should not go into the community. As for air crew members, they must self-isolate at their hotel rooms or at home in accordance with the requirements. Details here.

Tightened testing and quarantine arrangement for sea and air crew in effect
   
Hong Kong suspends legal pact

Jul 28, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today issued notices to the Canadian, Australian and UK consulates to suspend the agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters with these countries. In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said it is an international practice to safeguard national security through the enactment of laws. However, these countries have unilaterally suspended the agreements on surrender of fugitive offenders with the Hong Kong SAR using the enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong as an excuse. The Hong Kong SAR Government will, as always, uphold the principle of mutual assistance and reciprocity, and carry out law enforcement co-operation with other members of the international community in accordance with the law. Details here.

Hong Kong suspends legal pact
   
Social distancing measures further tightened

Jul 27, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government is further tightening social distancing measures, starting Jul 29 through Aug 24. People must wear a mask at all times in a public place, with group gatherings restricted to two unless exempted. Restaurants, except those granted exemptions, must cease to provide dine-in services at all times and can only offer takeaway services and deliveries. All karaoke and mahjong-tin kau activities carried on at any catering premises must also be suspended. Details here.

Social distancing measures further tightened
   
June's exports down 1.3%

Jul 27, 2020 - Hong Kong's total exports of goods in June dipped 1.3% to HK$305.6 billion (HK$39.1 billion) while the total imports of goods fell and 7.1% to HK$338.9 billion (US$43.4 billion). A visible trade deficit of HK$33.3 billion (US$4.2 billion), equivalent to 9.8% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded in the same month. The value of total exports to the US dropped 21.4% while the value of imports from the US decreased by 32.8%. Details here.

June's exports down 1.3%
   
SCED takes part in APEC virtual meeting

Jul 25, 2020 - The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, participated in the first-ever Virtual Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2020 today. He called on all APEC economies to act in unity and in a manner consistent with the World Trade Organization (WTO) rights and obligations, and to refrain from raising unjustified trade barriers. He also spoke on Hong Kong's strategy in combating the COVID-19 epidemic. Mr Yau stressed that Hong Kong, as a founding member of the WTO and a separate customs territory, remains committed to maintaining a free market policy and supporting progressive trade liberalization. Any unwarranted restrictive and protectionist measures at this critical juncture will only make the pandemic more lethal and detrimental to the region's long-term recovery, he said. Details here.

SCED takes part in APEC virtual meeting
   
Exchange Fund records US$1.3 billion loss

Jul 24, 2020 - Hong Kong's Exchange Fund recorded an investment loss of HK$10.6 billion (US$1.3 billion) in the first half of the year. The fund's investment income of HK$101.4 billion (US$13 billion) in the second quarter largely offset the investment loss of HK$112 billion (US$14.3 billion) in the first quarter. The fund's total assets fell HK$11.4 billion (US$1.4 billion) to HK$4.1953 trillion (US$537.8 billion). Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority Mr Eddie Yue said the COVID-19 outbreak caused wild swings in financial markets in the first half of the year. He noted that traditional asset classes, including equities and bonds, which account for the bulk of the Exchange Fund's assets, managed to recoup the investment loss made in the first quarter. Looking ahead, Mr Yue said the investment environment in the second half of the year remains challenging. Details here.

Exchange Fund records US$1.3 billion loss
   
Mandatory 14-day quarantine for arriving US travelers

July 22, 2020 - Starting Jul 29, travelers from the US arriving in Hong Kong will be required to present health certificates before boarding their flights showing that they are free of COVID-19. They would also be required to present proof that they have booked a hotel for at least two weeks and will be quarantined at the hotels upon arrival. The US, along with Kazakhstan, was added to a list of "high-risk" nations where the pandemic was especially severe. This is part of the city's enhanced anti-epidemic efforts that also include mandating people wear masks on public transport and all indoor public places. The extended measures will come into effect on Jul 23 for 14 days until Aug 5. Details here.

Mandatory 14-day quarantine for arriving US travelers
   
Film director Ann Hui to receive lifetime achievement award from Venice Film Festival

July 21, 2020 - Renowned Hong Kong director Ann Hui will receive the lifetime achievement award at this year's Venice Film Festival. She is the first Chinese female film director to be bestowed the honor. Congratulating Ms Hui, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, said, "Ann Hui is a pioneer of Hong Kong and Asian cinemas of our time. The award is in recognition of her exceptional contribution to the film industry. We take pride in her achievement in successfully showcasing to international audiences the top-notch, exquisite and sensational Hong Kong film productions through her unique film language and visual style." Details here.

Film director Ann Hui to receive lifetime achievement award from Venice Film Festival
   
June inflation up 0.7%

July 21, 2020 - Overall consumer prices in June rose 0.7% year-on-year, less than the corresponding increase of 1.5% in May. Netting out the effects of the Government's one-off relief measures, the year-on-year increase in June's underlying inflation rate was 1.2%, smaller than the 1.9% increase in May. This was mainly due to the substantial moderation of the year-on-year increase in pork prices when compared with May. Year-on-year price increases were recorded in June for food (excluding meals bought away from home), miscellaneous goods, meals bought away from home, housing, miscellaneous services as well as alcoholic drinks and tobacco. Year-on-year decreases were recorded for electricity, gas and water, clothing and footwear as well as durable goods. Details here.

June inflation up 0.7%
   
Total exports of goods fell in May

July 16, 2020 - The volume of Hong Kong's total exports of goods and imports of goods decreased by 6.7% and 11.0%, respectively, year-on-year. Prices of total exports of goods and imports of goods both fell 0.8% and 0.9%. Double-digit decline was recorded for the total export volume to the US (-11.8%) during the same comparison period. The total export prices to the USA also fell (-2.3%). Details here.

Total exports of goods fell in May
   
HKSARG firmly opposes HK Autonomy Act becoming US law

July 15, 2020 - The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government issued a statement today, expressing its strong opposition to the US signing into law the "Hong Kong Autonomy Act" (the Act) passed by the US Congress. A government spokesman said the US move is in violation of international law, and will definitely harm the relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the US, causing tremendous damage to the companies and people of the US. The spokesman added that the special status as a separate customs territory enjoyed by the HKSAR are recognized by multilateral organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), but not granted or revocable by an individual country. "The HKSAR Government will carefully consider if US's measures contravene WTO rules, and does not rule out the possibility of taking action under WTO rules to protect Hong Kong's interests.” Details here.

HKSARG firmly opposes HK Autonomy Act becoming US law
   
Tax concessions bill passed

July 15, 2020 - Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Mr Christopher Hui welcomed the passage of the Inland Revenue (Amendment) (Profits Tax Concessions for Insurance-related Businesses) Bill 2019 by the Legislative Council today. The ordinance seeks to amend the Inland Revenue Ordinance to reduce the profits tax rate by 50%, bringing it to 8.25%, for all general reinsurance businesses and selected general insurance businesses of direct insurers, as well as selected insurance brokerage businesses. Mr Hui said it would promote the development of Hong Kong’s marine and specialty risk insurance businesses and enhance the development of high value-added maritime services. The ordinance would also assist the insurance industry in seizing new opportunities, including those arising from the Belt & Road Initiative. Details here.

Tax concessions bill passed
   
Payment disbursed for 4.5 million

July 14, 2020 - Over 4.5 million people, who registered electronically, have received their HK$10,000 (US$1,282) disbursement via their respective bank accounts, from the Hong Kong SAR Government, under the Cash Payout Scheme. Eligible registrants who registered by filling in paper forms will begin to receive the payment or notifications for cheque collection starting from July 15, five days earlier than the original scheduled date of July 20. People who have submitted paper forms to banks will receive the payment via their specified personal bank accounts. Those who have submitted registration forms to Hongkong Post will receive notifications for cheque collection from Hongkong Post via SMS or letters. They may collect the order cheques in person from the post offices during the period set out in the notifications. Details here.

Payment disbursed for 4.5 million
   
Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme postponed

July 14, 2020 - In light of the postponement of various convention and exhibition (C&E) activities originally scheduled for mid- and late July and August in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong SAR Government announced today that the launch of the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund will be postponed. The Government will closely monitor the latest situation and announce the new launch date in due course, with a view to starting the 12-month scheme at an opportune time for holding major C&E events so as to benefit more enterprises and help them explore markets and opportunities. Details here.

Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme postponed
   
Social distancing measures tightened

July 14, 2020 - Hong Kong tightened social-distancing rules, in view of the recent rise in the number of local COVID-19 cases. These include mandatory mask-wearing on public transport, banning dine-in service in restaurants from 6pm until 5am, with only four people allowed per table in restaurants and the closure of premises such as bars, karaoke lounges and gyms, along with Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland. The number of persons allowed in any public gathering in public places will also be reduced from 50 to 4. The new rules will take effect on July 15. Speaking at a press conference (Jul 13), Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam also said that the government will continue to help the businesses under the Employment Support Scheme and the Anti-epidemic Fund. Details here.

Social distancing measures tightened
   
Energizing the film industry

July 13, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government has earmarked around HK$260 million (US$33.3 million) under the Film Development Fund to implement five major measures to re-energize Hong Kong’s film industry through nurturing young directors and scriptwriting talents and enhancing professional training. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Mr Edward Yau said the Government is committed to providing multi-pronged support for the trade to go through this difficult period and sustaining the success story of Hong Kong films. Details here.

Energizing the film industry
   
48,000 new companies registered in Hong Kong

July 12, 2020 - Hong Kong saw 48,760 newly registered local companies in the first half of 2020, resulting in a total of 1,381,355 local companies registered in the city under the Companies Ordinance at the end of June this year. During the same period, 876 non-Hong Kong companies were newly registered under the Companies Ordinance. The total number of registered non-Hong Kong companies reached 13,117 by the end of June 2020. Details here.

48,000 new companies registered in Hong Kong
   
Institutional advantages remain intact

Jul 10, 2020 - Hong Kong's institutional advantages that have made the city a leading international financial center are very much intact, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan at the online Hong Kong Financial Institutions Awards Forum of StartmeupHK Festival 2020 today. Mr Chan pointed out that Hong Kong placed fifth in the IMD's annual World Competitiveness Yearbook, ranking first in 'Government Efficiency' and second, overall, in 'Business Efficiency'. Hong Kong also ranked second globally in the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom, topping the world in 'Business Freedom', 'Trade Freedom', 'Financial Freedom' and, 'Fiscal Health'. The city also led the world in funds raised through IPOs in 2019 - the seventh time in the past 11 years. The Financial Secretary reiterated that Hong Kong remains the business bridge between the Mainland and the western world. Details here.

Institutional advantages remain intact
   
Social distancing measures tightened

Jul 9, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government will tighten existing social distancing measures in view of a recent rise in the number of local COVID-19 cases, Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan said today. These include capping the number of customers allowed on the premises of catering businesses at 60% of their seating capacity, and each table should accommodate no more than eight customers at a time. Catering businesses, including Hong Kong-style cafes, are reminded of the the importance of taking proper measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Scheduled premises, including karaoke establishments, fitness centers, clubs and nightclubs, must also adhere to a list of measures to tighten social distancing. The new measures will take effect for 14 days from July 11 to 24. Details here.

Social distancing measures tightened
   
Hong Kong continues to be free and open

July 7, 2020 - Hong Kong will continue to be a free and open society, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam today at the online conference of the 5th edition of the StartmeupHK Festival. "The rule of law including an independent judiciary will be as robust as ever. In short, the favorable factors of Hong Kong in attracting start-ups remain unchanged," Mrs Lam added. This year's StartmeupHK Festival, running from July 6 to 10, has gone virtual due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Details here.

Hong Kong continues to be free and open
   
Security measures clarified

July 7, 2020 - More than half of the measures for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong are practices that currently exist in Hong Kong’s laws, Secretary for Security John Lee said today. Citing the power to search, Mr Lee explained that such power will be conducted under a warrant issued by the Judiciary. “In general situations, it will be conducted under a warrant issued by the court. But in exceptional circumstances, where evidence may be destroyed in a short period of time or the person responsible may have a chance to escape, when police officers are facing these situations they can search the premises without applying for a search warrant," he said. “Such practice actually exists in current laws." Mr Lee emphasized that there are checks and balances in all these measures, adding that the procedures to implement them do comply with the protection of human rights and the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights. Details here.

Security measures clarified
   
Social distancing measures under review

July 7, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government may tighten the existing social distancing measures in view of the recent number of COVID-19 local cases, Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan said. Speaking to reporters tonight, Prof Chan said measures involving scheduled premises, restaurants and prohibition of group gatherings have been lifted earlier when the epidemic situation in Hong Kong was found more stable. However, she noted recently there are a number of local cases, with at least five with unknown sources. “We would, first of all, look into all these measures that we have relaxed previously and see how and also when we are going to suppress in the form of tightening (the measures)," she said. “Secondly, we will also continue to monitor the epidemic situation and local cases." Details here.

Social distancing measures under review
   
Foreign currency reserves at US$445.9 billion

July 7, 2020 - Hong Kong's foreign currency reserves amounted to US$445.9 billion as at the end of June 2020, compared with US$442.4 billion at the end of May 2020. The total foreign currency reserve assets of US$445.9 billion represent over six times the currency in circulation or about 46 per cent of Hong Kong dollar M3. Details here.

Foreign currency reserves at US$445.9 billion
   
National security law restores stability

July 6, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today stressed that the national security legislation can promptly reverse the chaotic situation of the past year and restore stability in Hong Kong, thereby improving Hong Kong's business and investment environment. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung and Secretary for Security John Lee met US Consul General to Hong Kong & Macau Hanscom Smith today on the national security law. “Our much-valued institutional strengths and core competitiveness will remain intact. They include the rule of law and judicial independence, open and flexible markets, a simple and low tax regime, an efficient public sector and a favorable business environment with a level playing field,” a government spokesman said. Details here.

National security law restores stability
   
Payment disbursed for 3.15 million people

July 6, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government has disbursed payment to 3.15 million people who registered electronically through banks on or before June 30 under the Cash Payout Scheme. The payments are made in batches. People who register electronically through banks on or after July 1 will receive payment about one week after registration. About 1,000 bank branches of 21 participating banks across the city are accepting electronic registration. Details here.

Payment disbursed for 3.15 million people
   
New US act opposed

July 3, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government expressed (Jul 3) strong opposition to the passage of the “Hong Kong Autonomy Act” by the US Congress. In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the proposed sanctions will only harm the relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the US. A Government spokesman said the National Security Law is an important step to improve the 'one country, two systems' institutional system and represents an essential and timely decision for restoring stability in Hong Kong. The law will not affect the high degree of autonomy, judicial independence and the rule of law in Hong Kong. Details here.

New US act opposed
   
FinTech talent program set up

July 1, 2020 – The FinTech Anti-epidemic Scheme for Talent Development (FAST Scheme) will open for application on July 2. The Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui said that the program will create 1,000 new jobs and enrich and support the development of Hong Kong’s fintech talent pool. Each successful applicant will receive US$1,282 (HK$10,000) per month as a salary subsidy for a maximum of 12 months. The total funding involved may amount to US$15.3 million (HK$120 million).  Details here.

FinTech talent program set up
   
Research talent hub launched

July 1, 2020 – The Researcher Programme and the Postdoctoral Hub have been merged to become the Research Talent Hub, providing more flexibility for employers to engage and nurture more research talents. Each eligible company or organization can obtain funding support to engage up to four innovation and technology (I&T) talents with a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree to conduct R&D work, with maximum monthly allowances for each degree at US$2,307 (HK$18,000), US$2,692 (HK$21,000) and US$4,102 (HK$32,000) respectively. The maximum engagement period for each research talent is three years in general. Details here.

Research talent hub launched
   
National security law explained

July 1, 2020 – Chief Executive Carrie Lam, in a press conference today, reiterated that the purpose of the national security legislation is not just to punish. It is also to deter people from committing such serious offenses as secession, subverting the state power and terrorist activities. Mrs Lam also reassured the media and the public that criticizing the national security law would not be considered a crime. "It is clearly stated in Article 4 that people of Hong Kong should be able to continue to enjoy the freedom of speech, freedom of press, of publication, protest, assembly and so on," she said. Also speaking at the press conference, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng emphasized that when handling national security law cases, all prosecutorial decisions will be based on facts and evidence. Details here.

National security law explained
   
"One country, two systems" optimized

July 1, 2020 – The enactment of the National Security Law in Hong Kong is a turning point to take Hong Kong out of the current impasse and to restore stability and order from the chaos, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam today at a reception to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR. She said the law will neither undermine the high degree of autonomy, the judicial independence and the rule of law in Hong Kong, nor will it affect the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong people. Mrs Lam said the implementation of the National Anthem Ordinance and the National Security Law in Hong Kong signifies the fulfilment of the constitutional responsibility of the Hong Kong SAR to better the institution of "One Country, Two Systems".  While recognizing the challenges to lead Hong Kong out of the current political predicament and overcome the post-epidemic challenges, Mrs Lam urged the public to put aside differences and build a better future for Hong Kong. Details here.

"One country, two systems" optimized
   
Social distancing measures relaxed  

June 30, 2020 –  Hong Kong will further relax social distancing measures in relation catering businesses and scheduled premises, increasing the cap from 50% of the normal seating capacity to 80%. Limitations on group gatherings in public places will be maintained at 50 people. These new measures will come into effect on July 3 for a period of 14 days till July 16. This is part of the suppress and lift strategy adopted by the Hong Kong SAR Government in striking a balance between public health protection, economic impact, social acceptance and maintaining disease prevention measures while allowing for the gradual resumption of social and economic activities. Details here.

Social distancing measures relaxed
   
Security law’s passage welcomed

June 30, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government welcomes the passage of the National Security Law by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC), said Chief Executive Carrie Lam today. In a statement, Mrs Lam said the enactment of a national security law at the state level is both necessary and urgent in order to plug the loophole in national security in Hong Kong. The legislation is an important step to improve the "One Country, Two Systems" institutional system as well as restore stability in Hong Kong society as soon as possible. The Chief Executive pointed out that the National Security Law seeks to practically and effectively prevent, curb and punish four types of crimes seriously endangering national security, namely acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security. It only targets an extremely small minority of offenders while the life and property as well as various legitimate basic rights and freedoms enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of citizens will be protected. Details here.

Security law’s passage welcomed
   
Hong Kong people's rights protected

June 30, 2020 – The national security legislation will not undermine "One Country, Two Systems" and Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, said the Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting today. Mrs Lam said the law will have no retrospective effect and will not affect Hong Kong's renowned judicial independence. It will not affect legitimate rights and freedoms of individuals which are protected under the Basic Law and the relevant provisions of international covenants as applied to Hong Kong. She urged the international community to respect China’s right to safeguard national security and Hong Kong people's aspirations for stability and harmony. Details here.

Hong Kong people's rights protected
   
Deficit recorded for May

June 30, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government recorded a deficit of US$5.7 billion (HK$44.7 billion) in the month of May. Expenditure for the period April to May was US$11.6 billion (HK$90.5 billion) and revenue at US$5.8 billion (HK$45.8 billion). Fiscal reserves stood at US$143 billion. Details here.

Deficit recorded for May
   
May retail sales dropped 32.8%

June 30, 2020 – The value of total retail sales in May, provisionally estimated at US$3.4 billion (HK$26.8 billion), fell 32.8% year-on-year. After netting out the effect of price changes in the same period, the volume of total retail sales decreased 33.9% year-on-year. A government spokesman said that retail sales continued to fall sharply in May as inbound tourism remained at a standstill and job and income conditions were weak. The Government will monitor the developments closely. Details here.

May retail sales dropped 32.8%
   
Wealth connect scheme welcomed

June 29, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government welcomes the decision to implement the two-way cross-boundary wealth management connect pilot scheme in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area by the People's Bank of China, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Monetary Authority of Macao. Under Wealth Management Connect, residents in Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong Province can carry out cross-boundary investment in wealth management products distributed by banks in the area. Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the Wealth Management Connect brings enormous business opportunities to the entire financial industry value chain and other professional services in Hong Kong, and will strengthen Hong Kong's role as the international asset and management centre and important gateway for capital flowing into and out of the Mainland. Details here.

Wealth connect scheme welcomed
   
May exports down 7.4%

June 29, 2020 – Hong Kong’s total exports and imports of goods in May decreased by 7.4% and 12.3% respectively year-on-year. The value of total exports was HK$317.6 billion (US$40.7 billion) while the value of imports of goods dropped to HK$331.3 billion (US$42.4 billion). In the same comparison period, the total exports volume to the US fell 14.4% while imports from the US dropped 30.4%. Details here.

May exports down 7.4%
   
Arbitral proceedings pilot program launched

June 29, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government launched today a pilot program to provide facilitation for eligible non-Hong Kong residents participating in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong on a short-term basis. This will strengthen Hong Kong’s position as an international center for legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region. Under the program, nationals of countries who may visit Hong Kong visa-free, and possess a letter of proof, are allowed to participate in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong as visitors, without the need to obtain employment visas. The pilot program, which will run on a trial basis for two years, covers four categories of visa-free nationals, namely arbitrators, expert and factual witnesses, arbitration counsel and parties to the arbitration. Details here.

Arbitral proceedings pilot program launched
   
Special travel arrangement between Hong Kong and Thailand

June 29, 2020 –  The Hong Kong SAR Government welcomes Thailand's decision to set up a special travel arrangement for cross-border control with five economies, including Hong Kong, as a first step in relaxing its inbound passenger control. “This is a very encouraging news for both Hong Kong and Thailand. If the special relaxation arrangements for cross-border control can be established between the two places, cross-boundary business exchange can be gradually resumed for Hong Kong, which is set to give a tremendous boost to our economic recovery," said the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau. A newly established inter-departmental team will start discussing with the relevant departments in the Thai Government in the coming weeks. Details here.

Special travel arrangement between Hong Kong and Thailand
   
Support for firms to tap new markets and opportunities

June 26, 2020 - Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic and global trade frictions, the HKSAR Government, a staunch supporter of free trade, continues to assist Hong Kong  companies to explore new ventures and markets, said Director of HKETONY Joanne Chu at the World Trade Day 2020 Virtual Conference, organized by World Trade Center Atlanta, today. She said US firms with a presence in Hong Kong can also leverage on various Free Trade Agreements Hong Kong has signed to expand their market presence and tap new business opportunities. Ms Chu also highlighted the business opportunities in innovation and technology, particularly in biotech and fintech, in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. HKETONY also hosted a virtual booth at the conference to interact with attendees online. Details here.

Support for firms to tap new markets and opportunities
   
Government opposes US sanctions law

June 26, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government today expressed strong opposition to the passage of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act by the Senate of the United States Congress. Pointing out that many of the Congress’ comments in the Act are seriously misleading and absolutely unfounded, a government spokesman said the “sanctions” are totally unacceptable and will only harm the relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the US. “The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to implement the 'one country, two systems' principle resolutely in accordance with the Basic Law,” said the spokesman. In addition, human rights and freedoms in Hong Kong are fully protected by the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other legislation, and underpinned by an independent judiciary. Details here.

Government opposes US sanctions law
   
All-out efforts to combat human trafficking

June 26, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government attaches great importance to combatting human trafficking. In response to the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2020, the Government said that it strongly objects to the report, adding it contains allegations made by unidentified sources and without specific case details. “The findings are groundless, and the rating of Hong Kong at Tier-2 Watch List is obviously seriously biased and not substantiated by facts.” The spokesman stressed that Hong Kong has been making proactive, all-out and multi-pronged efforts to combat human trafficking. While human trafficking has never been a prevalent problem in Hong Kong, the spokesman said the Government will continue to combat human trafficking at all fronts. Details here.

All-out efforts to combat human trafficking
   
30 million free masks to be distributed

June 25, 2020 - Beginning next Tuesday (June 30), the Hong Kong SAR Government will begin to deliver masks free-of-charge to members of the public through Hongkong Post. Each household will receive a pack of ten disposable adult masks. These masks are the first batch of masks procured by the Government under the Local Mask Production Subsidy Scheme. Details here.

30 million free masks to be distributed
   
Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal appointed

June 24, 2020 – Chief Executive Carrie Lam has signed the appointment of the Honourable Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung as the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal, with effect from January 11, 2021. Pointing out that the rule of law and judicial independence are core values of Hong Kong, Mrs Lam said she has no doubt that Mr Justice Cheung will lead the Judiciary to ensure the continuation of the rule of law and judicial independence under 'One Country, Two Systems'. Details here

Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal appointed
   
May inflation rose 1.5%

June 22, 2020 – Overall consumer prices rose 1.5% in May 2020, compared to 1.9% in April 2020. Netting out the effects of all Government’s one-off relief measures, the underlying inflation rate in May was 1.9%, lower than 2.3% recorded in the previous month. The month saw year-on-year increases in prices for food, miscellaneous goods, housing, meals bought away from home, miscellaneous services and transport. Year-on-year decreases were recorded for electricity, gas and water; clothing and footwear as well as durable goods. Details here.

May inflation rose 1.5%
   
HKSAR Government fully supports national security law

June 20, 2020 – Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the Hong Kong SAR Government fully supports the legislative work for safeguarding national security in the city. Mrs Lam emphasized that it is the constitutional responsibility of the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security. She also pointed that the drafting process takes into account the difference between the Mainland and Hong Kong and makes every effort in ensuring the compatibility and complementarity of the national security law with the relevant national laws and local laws in the Hong Kong SAR. Details here.

HKSAR Government fully supports national security law
   
Cash handout registration to start on June 21

Registration for Hong Kong's Cash Payout Scheme will start on June 21, with 21 participating banks accepting electronic registration from 7 am that day. About 1,000 bank branches and 120 post offices across the city will open from 9 am to 5 pm to facilitate the submission of registration forms. The fastest and most convenient way to receive the payment is to register a sole-name account electronically through banks. Internet banking users only need to provide their local telephone contact number for registration. People who wish to receive the payment by order cheques may submit an electronic registration form at the Hongkong Post website. Details here.

Cash handout registration to start on June 21
   
HKEX launches university scholarship program

June 19, 2020 – Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) launches its first university scholarship program as part of its 20th anniversary celebration. The program will develop home-grown talent in the fields of business, finance, biotech, and innovation in Hong Kong. Six scholarships of HK$50,000 (US$6,410) each will be given out to support tertiary students at The University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in the 2020-2021 academic year. Pointing out that the program will support the best and brightest talent in Hong Kong, HKEX Chairman Laura M Cha said it will contribute not only to the development of the talent pool, but to Hong Kong’s continuing role as a leading global international financial centre. She added that the scholarship program reflects HKEX's commitment to cultivate the local ecosystem for new economy and biotech investments. Details here.

HKEX launches university scholarship program
   
Speedpost service to US to resume

June 18, 2020 – Hongkong Post today announced that Speedpost service to the US will resume beginning tomorrow (June 19). Notwithstanding the service resumption, postal operations will experience delays in mail delivery due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Details here.

Speedpost service to US to resume
   
Government responds to US recommendation

June 18, 2020 – As a telecommunications hub in the region, Hong Kong attaches great importance to the security and integrity of its telecommunications networks, said a spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau. He expressed disagreement and disappointment with the US Department of Justice's decision to deny the Pacific Light Cable Network connecting to Hong Kong."The recommendation by the committee not only hinders the telecommunications development between Hong Kong and the US, it also harms the interests of US investors and entities, and disregards the win-win situation between Hong Kong and the US as brought by investments in communications infrastructure," he said, adding that the concerns raised are also ungrounded. Details here.

Government responds to US recommendation
   
Total exports down 2.7%

June 18, 2020 – Hong Kong's total exports of goods and imports of goods in April decreased by 2.7% and 5.3% respectively year-on-year. In the same comparison period, a 22.7% decline was recorded for the total export volume to the US. Details here.

Total exports down 2.7%
   
Two special flights for Hong Kong residents stranded in India

June 17, 2020 – About 280 Hong Kong residents stranded in India will return to Hong Kong through two special flights arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government. The two flights, tentatively scheduled to depart from Bengaluru and Chennai for Hong Kong on June 18 and 20, will carry Hong Kong residents in various provinces in the southeast part of India with special needs. The cost will be borne by the passengers. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, the returnees will first proceed to AsiaWorld-Expo for compulsory COVID-19 testing and then transferred to designated quarantine centres for a 14-day compulsory quarantine period. Details here.

Two special flights for Hong Kong residents stranded in India
   
Hong Kong ranks fifth in competitiveness

June 16, 2020 – Hong Kong ranked fifth globally in the latest World Competitiveness Yearbook 2020 published by the International Institute for Management Development. The Institute attributed Hong Kong’s ranking, down from second last year, to a decline in economic performance, social turmoil as well as the rub-on effect of the Chinese economy. Among the various factors, Hong Kong remained the first globally in “Business legislation”, and jumped to first in indicators “Legal and regulatory framework” and “Exchange rate stability”, all reaffirming Hong Kong’s institutional strengths. A spokesman stated that the Government is committed to enhancing the competitiveness and vibrancy of the Hong Kong economy and have every confidence in its long-term economic development. Details here.

Hong Kong ranks fifth in competitiveness
   
Social distancing measures relaxed

June 16, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government is easing social distancing measures in relation to catering business, scheduled premises, and group gathering in public. Beginning June 19, public gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed. Group gatherings at catering business premises such as banquets would be exempted from the restriction on the number of persons at group gatherings. Restaurants will be exempted from customer restrictions while restriction at a table in bars/ pubs will be relaxed from four to eight. The limit in group facilities or rooms will be increased from eight to sixteen persons while clubs and nightclubs will be allowed to host up to eight people at a table. Live performance and dancing will resume at catering business but employees and performers must wear masks at all times. The new measures, part of the "lifting" phase of the city's "suppress and lift" anti-pandemic strategy, will be in effect for 14 days until July 2. Details here.

Social distancing measures relaxed
   
Unemployment rate at 5.9%

June 16, 2020 – The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 5.9% (March - May 2020) from 5.2% (February - April 2020). The underemployment rate also increased to 3.5% (March – May 2020) from 3.1% in the previous three-months period. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said that the labor market showed further deterioration as a wide range of economic activities stayed in the doldrums. Looking ahead, Dr. Law said the labor market will still face pressure in the near term due to the pandemic’s heavy blow on the global economy. He believes that the relief measures rolled out by the Government will preserve the vitality of the economy and keep workers in employment. Details here.  

Unemployment rate at 5.9%
   
Support for national security law urged

June 15, 2020 – Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the national security legislation will only target an extremely small minority of illegal and criminal acts and activities, while the life and property, basic rights and freedoms of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong citizens will be protected. Pointing out that the Hong Kong community had been traumatized in the past year by protests and violence, Mrs Lam said the legislation will restore stability in the city. She appealed for the public’s understanding and support to put in place national security legislation in the city. Details here.

Support for national security law urged
   
Government firmly opposes UK report

June 12, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR (HKSAR) Government today firmly opposed the Six-monthly Report on Hong Kong issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office The HKSAR Government reiterated its firm commitment to the implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle in accordance with the Basic Law. It expressed deep regret about the report’s inaccurate and biased remarks on the national security law and the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by the HKSAR. It is absolutely wrong and totally groundless for the Report to allege that the enactment of the national security law for the HKSAR by the Central Authorities lies in direct conflict with Article 23 of the Basic Law. Legislating on national security is within the purview of the Central Authorities and is outside the limits of the autonomy of the HKSAR, a Government spokesman said. Details here.

Government firmly opposes UK report
   
CE signs anthem law 

June 11, 2020 – Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam today signed the National Anthem Ordinance passed by the Legislative Council in accordance with Article 48(3) of the Basic Law. The ordinance will come into effect after it is published in the Gazette tomorrow. Mrs Lam said the ordinance signified the fulfilment of the constitutional responsibility of the Hong Kong SAR and reflected the spirit of "One Country, Two Systems.” Details here

CE signs anthem law 
   
LegCo election set for Sep 6

June 10, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today that the next Legislative Council election will be held on September 6 and the nomination period is scheduled for July 18-31. To ensure all candidates compete fairly, July 18 will be the last day for LegCo’s meeting. Details here.

LegCo election set for Sep 6
   
Re-appointment of Ashley Alder as IOSCO Board Chair welcomed

June 10, 2020 – Financial Secretary Paul Chan today welcomed the re-appointment of Ashley Alder as Chair of the Board of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) for a third term. Mr Chan said that the re-appointment of Mr Alder, the Chief Executive Officer of the Securities and Futures Commission, reaffirms Hong Kong's position as a premier international financial center as well as a key player on the global scene. The IOSCO is the leading international policy forum for securities regulators, with membership covering more than 95% of the world’s securities markets in more than 115 jurisdictions. Mr Alder has been Chair of the IOSCO Board since May 2016. Details here.

Re-appointment of Ashley Alder as IOSCO Board Chair welcomed
   
Government invests in Cathay Pacific Airways

June 9, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government will invest in Cathay Pacific Airways to protect Hong Kong’s role as a leading international aviation hub in the region as well as the city’s long term economic development, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said today. The Government will invest about US$3.5 billion (HK$27.3 billion) in the airline to help it overcome its present challenge. "The Government's investment signifies our determination in upholding our international aviation hub status, and in preserving the necessary conditions and providing impetus to the much-needed post-COVID-19 revival of the economy in Hong Kong," said the Financial Secretary. Details here.

Government invests in Cathay Pacific Airways
   
Financial services a key sector: CE

June 9, 2020 – Hong Kong should transform into a more prominent offshore RMB center and private wealth management hub as the city enhances its status as an international financial center, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam during a media session today. She also proposes to promote greater connectivity between the Hong Kong financial markets and the Mainland financial market. Details here.

Financial services a key sector: CE
   
Cash payout registration set

June 8, 2020 – The Cash Payout Scheme will open for registration on June 21. Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 or above on or before March 31, 2021 are eligible to receive the HK$10,000 (US$1,282) payout. Financial Secretary Mr. Paul Chan announced that members of the public may register online through 21 participating banks to have the sum deposited to the bank account. Those who wish to receive the payout with a cheque can register with Hongkong Post and collect it in person at the post office. The Financial Secretary sad he hopes this may help relieve people's financial burden and boost the economy with more consumption. Details here.

Cash payout registration set
   
Exemption from compulsory quarantine

June 8, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today a mechanism for directors or executives of companies listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (SEHK) to apply for exemption from the compulsory quarantine arrangement when they arrive at Hong Kong from the Mainland, subject to a pre-determined quota. All exempted persons must only travel to and stay in the areas where the services are performed, and they will be subjected to medical surveillance for 14 days upon arrival in Hong Kong. In striving to safeguard public health and promote Hong Kong's economic development, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Mr Christopher Hui said the new scheme will facilitate directors or executives of sizable Hong Kong-listed companies to perform business activities that are essential to their operation. Details here.

Exemption from compulsory quarantine
   
Foreign currency reserve at US$442.3 billion

June 5, 2020 – Hong Kong’s foreign currency reserve amounted to US$442.3 billion as of May 31, 2020, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This represents over six times the currency in circulation or about 46% of Hong Kong dollar M3. Details here.

Foreign currency reserve at US$442.3 billion
   
2020 first quarter port statistics released

June 4, 2020 – Hong Kong’s total port cargo throughput decreased by 3.2% year-on-year to 57.2 million tonnes in the first quarter of 2020. Inward port cargo loaded in the US dropped by 26.7% while outward port cargo discharged in the US fell by 24.8%. In the first quarter of 2020, the port of Hong Kong handled 4.10 million TEUs of containers, representing a 7.3% year-on-year decrease. Details here.

2020 first quarter port statistics released
   
Startmeup Festival 2020 goes virtual

June 4, 2020 – StartmeupHK Festival 2020, organized by Invest Hong Kong, will run virtually online from July 6-10. The festival offers a unique opportunity to connect, exchange ideas, and learn about business opportunities in Hong Kong, China and Asia. It will feature keynotes with renowned speakers, startup village, services marketplaces, job fair and business matching will be open to attendees across the globe.  “Despite the challenges, Hong Kong's startup ecosystem remains resilient," said Associate Director-General of Investment Promotion at InvestHK Mr Charles Ng. "Our solid track record stands as a testimony to Hong Kong's enduring appeal as a place for startups to settle, grow, launch and expand into other markets." Details here.

Startmeup Festival 2020 goes virtual
   
Launch of Banking Talent Programme

June 4, 2020 –  The Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the banking industry have launched the Banking Talent Program, an initiative to nurture young talents in the industry and better prepare them for future careers in the banking sector. Around 300 recent graduates will be offered six-month work opportunities and industry-specific training. Application opens on June 15. While offering both short-term relief and valuable learning opportunities to young graduates, the program also benefits the industry by expanding the talent pool to support the future growth of Hong Kong's banking sector, said Chief Executive of the HKMA, Mr Eddie Yue. Details here.

Launch of Banking Talent Programme
   
HK-ASEAN pact to take effect

June 3, 2020 – The commitments on trade and investment agreements between Hong Kong and Indonesia, a member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), will enter into force on July 4. Under the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Hong Kong service providers will enjoy tariff reduction and better business opportunities and legal certainty in market access for different services sectors in Indonesia. Upon the Investment Agreement (IA)’s implementation, Indonesia will provide Hong Kong enterprises investing in its area with fair and equitable treatment of their investments, physical protection and security of their investments, and the assurance on the free transfer of their investments and returns. With the entry of Indonesia, there will be a total of eight ASEAN member states for which both the FTA and IA have entered into force. Details here.

HK-ASEAN pact to take effect
   
Financial system operates orderly amid COVID-19

June 3, 2020 – Hong Kong's financial regulators and the trade have adopted an array of measures to safeguard financial security and maintain business operations while minimizing the risk of infection amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Christopher Hui said today. The Securities and Futures Commission is pursuing a flexible approach to ensure that markets continue to function properly, while safeguarding investor protection. “Hong Kong's financial system has withstood crises one after another, and Hong Kong can cope with the ever-changing market” said Mr. Hui, affirming its commitment in  maintaining Hong Kong’s position as a major international financial center. Details here.

Financial system operates orderly amid COVID-19
   
Monetary and financial stability assured

June 2, 2020 – Hong Kong's local financial market continues to operate in a smooth and orderly manner, reflecting strong market confidence in the Linked Exchange Rate System (LERS), said Chief Executive of Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) Mr Eddie Yue, who reiterated that Hong Kong has strong fundamentals and a robust financial system. He pointed out that the LERS is underpinned by sizeable foreign reserves of over US$440 billion, strong capital position in the banking system, abundant liquidity, and good asset quality. Mr Yue added that Hong Kong can decide on its own appropriate monetary regime including exchange rate policy and the LERS will not be changed because of any shift in foreign policies towards Hong Kong. Details here.

Monetary and financial stability assured
   
Anti-epidemic measures extended

June 2, 2020 – In view of the recent local outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong SAR Government, in adopting its "suppress and lift" strategy, is extending relevant immigration control and social distancing measures. Health rules limiting the group size of public gatherings to eight people, along with regulations governing the operation of restaurants and bars would remain in place until June 18. Compulsory quarantine measures for Hong Kong residents arriving from overseas will be extended until September 18. The mandatory quarantine policy for travellers from Mainland China, Macao and Taiwan will remain in effect until July 7. Non-Hong Kong residents from overseas will continue to be denied entry until further notice.  Details here.

Anti-epidemic measures extended
   
More Hong Kong people stranded in India return home

June 2, 2020 – The second batch of Hong Kong residents stranded in India will take a special flight arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government to return to Hong Kong on the morning of June 3 at the earliest. This flight will assist Hong Kong residents in Mumbai with special needs such as people with illness, pregnant women and children, as well as family members travelling with them. The flight will carry about 300 people and the cost will be borne by the passengers. Upon arrival, the returnees will undergo compulsory COVID-19 testing and then transferred to a quarantine center for a 14-day mandatory quarantine. Details here.

More Hong Kong people stranded in India return home
   
No change to currency peg

June 1, 2020 – Hong Kong has no intention to change the Linked Exchange Rate System which is backed by solid foreign exchange reserves and a sound banking system, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan. He said that US actions announced last week in response to the national security law in Hong Kong would have limited impact on the city as goods manufactured in Hong Kong exported to the US last year was only about 0.1% of the city’s total exports. Mr Chan added that the US has very substantial business interests and very strong professional and financial services representation in Hong Kong, generating significant economic benefits. Details here.

No change to currency peg
   
Special flights for Hong Kong residents in Nepal

May 31, 2020 – In light of the strict restrictions on all land and air traffic in Nepal since late March, the Hong Kong SAR Government has arranged for two special  chartered flights to bring about 330 Hong Kong residents stranded in Nepal back to Hong Kong on June 1. Upon arrival, all returnees will proceed to the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre at AsiaWorld-Expo for compulsory COVID-19 testing. After collection of deep throat saliva samples, they will then be transferred to the quarantine center for a 14-day mandatory quarantine period. The Government will continue to liaise with the Consulate General and airlines to arrange other special flights to assist stranded Hong Kong residents to return home in batches. Details here.

Special flights for Hong Kong residents in Nepal
   
Trade restrictions unjustified

May 30, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government said that sanctions or trade restrictions against Hong Kong are not justified and will breakdown the mutually beneficial Hong Kong-US relationship. In exercising its high degree of autonomy under “one country, two systems", the Hong Kong SAR Government is resolutely committed to upholding its international responsibilities and agreements with the US and all countries in areas such as trade, investment protection, mutual legal assistance, the fight against transnational crime and terrorism, as well as education and cultural exchanges. US's trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the biggest among all its trading partners, with merchandise trade surplus totalling US$297 billion from 2009 to 2018. Any change of US economic and trade policy towards Hong Kong would hurt local and US businesses alike in Hong Kong and the people working for them. Details here.

Trade restrictions unjustified
   
Basic Law online exhibition launched

May 30, 2020 – An exhibition presenting the historical background, drafting, promulgation, and successful implementation of the Basic Law in Hong Kong was launched on May 30. Encouraging the public to visit the “Online Exhibition of the 30th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Basic Law”, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung said the exhibition looks back at the important milestones during the 30 years since the promulgation of the Basic Law and will deepen the understanding of the concept and implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle and the critical importance of the guarantee of the Basic Law towards the long-term development of Hong Kong. The public can visit the exhibition online. Details here.

Basic Law online exhibition launched
   
Financial Leaders Forum convenes 12th meeting

May 29, 2020 – The Financial Leaders Forum held its 12th meeting today, during which members were briefed on the latest financial market situation. The Hong Kong SAR Government and financial regulators informed members that although Hong Kong’s financial markets have become more volatile, different facets of the financial services sector continue to function in an orderly manner. The Linked Exchange Rate system operates smoothly and no notable outflow of funds has been recorded. The members were also briefed on the latest situation in the city’s banking sector and fintech developments, as well as its position as an international financial centre.  The Government and the financial regulators will continue to closely monitor the financial market situation to ensure financial stability. Details here.

Financial Leaders Forum convenes 12th meeting
   
CE’s open letter to Hong Kong citizens

May 29, 2020 – The legislation to safeguard national security aims to restore stability in Hong Kong society and resume development of the economy and livelihoods, said Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam, in a letter to Hong Kong citizens published in newspapers today. Emphasizing that the legislation only targets an extremely small minority of illegal criminal acts and activities, Mrs Lam stressed that the overwhelming majority of citizens will continue to enjoy the freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of demonstration, of procession, and to enter or leave Hong Kong in accordance with the law. Mrs Lam appeals for the public's understanding and support for the National People’s Congress’ decision. Details here.

CE’s open letter to Hong Kong citizens
   
Deficit recorded for April

May 29, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government recorded a deficit of US$2 billion in the month of April. Expenditure for the first month of the current financial year was at US$5.8 billion and revenue at US$3.7 billion. Fiscal reserves stood at US$146.6 billion. Details here.

Deficit recorded for April
   
Exchange Fund at US$525.1 billion

May 29, 2020 – Total assets of Hong Kong’s Exchange Fund amounted to US$525.1 billion as at April 30, 2020. This is US$179 million higher than that at the end of March 2020. Foreign current assets grew by US$8.6 billion while Hong Kong dollar assets fell by US$8.44 billion. The monetary base at the end of April 2020 was US$219 billion, a 1.7% increased compared to the previous month. Backing assets increased by 1.6%, to US$245.1 billion. Details here.

Exchange Fund at US$525.1 billion
   
Government strongly objects to US report 

May 28, 2020 – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government expressed strong opposition to the unfounded allegations about erosion of HKSAR's high degree of autonomy and the legitimate rights and freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong in the Hong Kong Policy Act Report by the US State Department. These remarks misrepresented the constitutional relationship between the HKSAR and the Central Authorities, said a government spokesman. Pointing out that any sanctions are a double-edged sword in Hong Kong-US relationship, the spokesman urged the US Government to adopt a pragmatic attitude, bearing in mind US' own interests in Hong Kong, and maintain its economic and trade policy towards Hong Kong. US's trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the biggest among all its trading partners, with merchandise trade surplus totalling US$297 billion from 2009 to 2018. Details here.

Government strongly objects to US report
   
Law decision passage welcomed

May 28, 2020 – Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam today welcomed the National People’s Congress’ passage of the decision on national security legislation for Hong Kong. In a statement, Mrs Lam said that safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests is the constitutional duty of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and concerns every Hong Kong citizen. “The legislation to be enacted aims to prevent, curb and sanction an extremely small minority of criminals who threaten national security, safeguarding the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and maintaining "One Country, Two Systems". It will not affect the legitimate rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents,” said Mrs Lam. Details here.

Law decision passage welcomed
   
Government responds to US Chamber of Commerce statement

May 27, 2020 – Responding to a statement (May 26) by the US Chamber of Commerce, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government said that the proposed national security legislation only targets acts of secession, subverting state power, organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, as well as activities interfering with the HKSAR's internal affairs by foreign or external forces.  "The vast majority of law-abiding Hong Kong residents, including overseas investors, have nothing to fear," the spokesman said. "All of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people and international investors will remain unchanged." Details here.

Government responds to US Chamber of Commerce statement
   
Hong Kong financial system remains strong

May 27, 2020 – The proposed national security legislation would not bring any changes to Hong Kong's monetary and financial system, said Chief Executive of Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) Mr Eddie Yue. The free flow of capital and free convertibility of the Hong Kong dollar will continue to be safeguarded, and the Linked Exchange Rate System, underpinned by strong foreign reserves position of over US$440 billion, will remain the bedrock of the city’s financial system. Hong Kong's banking system has strong capital positions, abundant liquidity, good asset quality and solid track record in operational resilience. Mr Yue pointed out that despite the recent volatility in the stock market, the Hong Kong dollar exchange rate has remained stable on the strong side of the convertibility zone and the financial markets have also been operating in a smooth and orderly manner. "The HKMA has the capability, resources and commitment to safeguard Hong Kong’s continued monetary and financial stability," he said. Details here.

Hong Kong financial system remains strong
   
Government hails financial partnership

May 27, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government welcomed the partnership of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) and MSCI Limited to launch a suite of 37 MSCI Asia and Emerging Market equity index futures and options contracts on the Hong Kong Futures Exchange.  “This partnership is a big step forward in developing Hong Kong into a pre-eminent risk management center and derivative hub, and represents a notable vote of confidence in the Hong Kong market,” said Financial Secretary Mr Paul Chan. Details here.

Government hails financial partnership
   
Social distancing rules relaxed

May 26, 2020 – With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong stabilizing, the Hong Kong SAR Government will relax social distancing measures in accordance with the “suppress and lift” strategy. Starting from May 29, bathhouses, party rooms, clubs or nightclubs and karaoke establishments can resume operation. Karaoke activities will also be allowed in catering premises, party rooms and club-houses. Details here.

Social distancing rules relaxed
   
Total exports of goods fell 3.7%

May 25, 2020 –  Hong Kong’s total exports and imports of goods in April decreased by 3.7% and 6.7% respectively year-on-year. In the same comparison period, the total exports volume to the US fell 24.6% while imports from the US dipped -1.1%. Details here.

Total exports of goods fell 3.7%
   
Hong Kong to remain a free city

May 25, 2020 – National security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is essential and will also be conducive to the city’s business environment. In an exclusive media interview (May 25), Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the legislation would ensure a safer and more stable business environment for international investors, adding that general business activity would not be affected. He stated that Hong Kong will remain the same place that upholds the rule of law, freedom, and remain the most competitive and the freest market. In his latest blog article (May 24), Financial Secretary Paul Chan also said that a safe society and political stability are prerequisites for an international financial center. Enactment of the national security law could provide the necessary protection in these aspects and would not affect the normal flow of people, goods, information and capital. “In fact, other international financial centers around the world are protected by their own national security law, and their development has not been affected by the law,” the Financial Secretary said. Details here.

Hong Kong to remain a free city
   
National security must be protected

May 22, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government supports the National People's Congress's drafting of legislation to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanism for the city to safeguard national security. The fundamental objective is to safeguard national security and the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, which will not affect the legitimate rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents under the law, or the independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, exercised by the Judiciary in Hong Kong. Speaking at a press conference, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Hong Kong will remain a very free society, where freedom of expression, freedom of protest, freedom of journalism will stay because these are the core values of Hong Kong and are very much protected by the Basic Law. Details here.

National security must be protected
   
April inflation rose 1.9%

May 21, 2020 – Overall consumer prices rose 1.9% in April, compared to 2.3% in March. Netting out the effects of all Government’s one-off relief measures, the underlying inflation rate in April was 2.3%, lower than 2.6% recorded in the previous month. The month saw year-on-year increases for food and meals bought away from home, miscellaneous goods, housing, miscellaneous services, alcoholic drinks and tobacco as well as transport. Year-on-year decreases were recorded for electricity, gas and water; clothing and footwear as well as durable goods. Details here.

April inflation rose 1.9%
   
Health strategy and exemptions explained

May 20, 2020 -  The Hong Kong SAR Government has introduced statutory restrictions on group gatherings in public places with the aim to reduce risks of virus transmission. The Government has all along adopted a "suppress and lift" strategy and made adjustments to measures to control the epidemic as appropriate while striking a suitable balance among public health, economic development and day-to-day operation of the society. Even though the situation in Hong Kong has become more stabilized in recent weeks, taking into account the local cluster COVID-19 cases last week without known sources, the Government view that the current social distancing measures should be maintained for 14 days, and will review the epidemic development closely. The Government does not rule out gradual relaxation of restrictions on group gatherings subject to the epidemic situation.Before the global epidemic is fully under control, the Government appeals to the public to stay vigilant and adopt necessary precautionary measures in order to cut the virus transmission chain. Details here.

Health strategy and exemptions explained
   
FinTech development to thrive

May 20, 2020 – Fintech development is seen by Hong Kong banks as an opportunity to their business operations, now and in the next five years, with risk management services having the greatest potential, according to the “Fintech Adoption and Innovation in the Hong Kong Banking Industry" report released by the Hong Kong Institute for Monetary and Financial Research. The report, based on an industry-wide survey carried out by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), also showed that 86% of banks have adopted or plan to adopt Fintech solutions across all types of financial services, with preliminary results showing that fintech adoption by banks brought about increased cost efficiency and improved profitability. Looking ahead, Senior Executive Director of the HKMA Mr Edmond Lau said that banks would not be displaced by new competitors as technological changes would help enhance business models and maintain core banking services. Details here.

FinTech development to thrive
   
Social distancing measures extended

May 19, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today that the prohibition of group gatherings in public with more than eight people will be extended for another two weeks until June 4, but religious gatherings will be exempted with certain restrictions. Announcing the decision today, Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan said the government had been using a risk-based approach as part of its "suppress and lift" strategy in considering the restrictions or relaxation of social distancing measures. Social distancing measures for catering business will remain in place until June 4 as well. Fitness centres must limit each group training or class to no more than eight persons, with at least 1.5 metres between each person and the coach must wear a mask at all times. Bathhouse, party room, club, and karaoke establishment will remain closed until May 28, 2020. Details here.

Social distancing measures extended
   
Chairman of HKEX reappointed

May 19, 2020 – The Chief Executive has approved the re-appointment of Mrs Laura Cha May-lung as Chairman of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) with immediate effect. Her term will conclude at the end of the 2022 Annual General Meeting of the HKEX. The Government expressed its confidence that under Mrs Cha’s leadership, the HKEX will further enhance Hong Kong's market quality and competitiveness, and strengthen the city's position as the premier fund raising and risk management platform in the region. Details here.

Chairman of HKEX reappointed
   
Unemployment rises to 5.2%

May 19, 2020 – The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 5.2% (February - April 2020) from 4.2% (January - March 2020). The underemployment rate also increased to 3.1% (February - April 2020) compared to the previous three-months period. Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong said the labor market showed further sharp deterioration as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to weigh on a wide range of economic activities. He is optimistic that the relief measures rolled out by the Government will preserve the vitality of the economy and keep workers in employment. Details here.

Unemployment rises to 5.2%
   
Government to receive locally-made masks

May 19, 2020 – The production lines under the Local Mask Production Subsidy Scheme will start supplying marks to the Hong Kong SAR Government starting from late May. The Government has signed funding agreements of 19 production lines, and nine of them have obtained certification verifying that the masks produced comply with the ASTM F2100 Level 1 standard or above. It is estimated that when all the 20 subsidized production lines are in full production, they will collectively supply 34.25 million masks to the Government and a further 7.65 million to the local market. Details here.

Government to receive locally-made masks
   
Hong Kong’s resilience will prevail

May 19, 2020 – Acknowledging the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Hong Kong's economy, Financial Secretary Mr Paul Chan said Hong Kong has adopted an expansionary fiscal stance and have made the optimal use of its reserves to implement counter-cyclical measures. Speaking at Citi's Pan-Asia Regional Investor Conference, Mr Chan highlighted the US$37 billion worth of relief measures that have been rolled out to support enterprises, safeguard jobs and relieve financial burden of residents. Apart from fiscal policies, Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) also introduced several measures, including the reduction in the issuance size of Exchange Fund paper and injecting additional US dollar liquidity for the local market. Measures that relieve cash-flow pressure on businesses and personal customers were also implemented by the HKMA and Mortgage Corporation. Pointing out that the city's institutional strengths and underlying fundamentals and competitiveness remain strong and intact amid these challenges, the Financial Secretary remains confident in Hong Kong's economic prospects . “With our unique position as the international trade and financial centre, logistics center and aviation hub in the region, alongside with our professional services and high-quality service industries, Hong Kong stands to benefit from the enormous opportunities Asia has to offer,” he said. Details here.  

Hong Kong’s resilience will prevail
   
Health chief participated in WHO meet

May 18, 2020 – The Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, attended the 73rd World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization via video conferencing as a member of the Chinese delegation. During the assembly, member states delivered statements focused largely on the COVID-19 pandemic. "The Hong Kong SAR Government has maintained close co-operation with the WHO and health authorities of its member states to fight the pandemic together, with a view to protecting the health of Hong Kong people and maintaining a robust healthcare system in Hong Kong,” said Professor Chan, who added that hearing from leading experts in various fields are crucial in establishing anti-pandemic strategies for the city in the future. Details here.  

Health chief participated in WHO meet
   
CEO of Securities and Futures Commission reappointed

May 18, 2020 –  The Hong Kong SAR Government announced the re-appointment of Mr Ashley Alder as CEO of the Securities and Future Commission (SFC), for a new three-year term from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2023. He has been CEO of the SFC since October 1, 2011 and played a key role in leading the SFC amidst a fast-changing and challenging financial landscape, both locally and globally.  The continuity of leadership would significantly boost the confidence of international and local investors about Hong Kong's financial markets and be tremendously beneficial to financial stability. Details here

CEO of Securities and Futures Commission reappointed
   
Chartered flight for Hong Kong residents in India

May 18, 2020 – A chartered flight carrying 249 Hong Kong residents stranded in India arrived at Hong Kong International Airport on May 18 morning (Hong Kong time). Upon arrival, the returnees proceeded to the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre at AsiaWorld-Expo for compulsory COVID-19 testing. They were then transferred to the quarantine centre at Chun Yeung Estate in Fo Tan for a 14-day mandatory quarantine period. Details here.

Chartered flight for Hong Kong residents in India
   
Quarantine exemptions set

May 18, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today that the mechanism for medical personnel, people engaged in technological research and development (R&D), people conducting audit services, and enterprises providing construction-related services to apply for exemption from the compulsory quarantine arrangement. For medical personnel, up to 50 people employed and authorized by The University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital (HKUSZH) can be exempted and up to two employees of a Hong Kong enterprise with a valid Hong Kong Service Supplier Certificate in relation to the provision of medical and dental services in the Mainland are also exempted. For R&D sector and construction sector, up to two personnel of each eligible enterprise or institution can be exempted from the quarantine arrangement. All exempted persons must only travel to and stay in the areas where the services are provided for the purpose of provision of the intended services as approved, and they will be subjected to medical surveillance for 14 days upon arrival in Hong Kong. Details here.

Quarantine exemptions set
   
IPCC recommendations accepted 

May 15, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government today accepted all 52 recommendations proposed by the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) in its Thematic Study Report on the Public Order Events arising from the Fugitive Offenders Bill since June 2019 and the Police Actions in Response. The Chief Executive has requested the Secretary for Security to establish a task force and personally supervise the task force to study and follow up on every recommendation. The government also expresses gratitude to the IPCC Chairman, Mr Anthony Neoh, and all members of the IPCC for their time and efforts in preparing the report. The Security Bureau is making preparations to convene a task force meeting as soon as practicable to develop a work plan and identify the priority items in respect of the recommendations put forward by the IPCC. Police will participate in and fully collaborate with the taskforce. Detail here.

IPCC recommendations accepted 
   
First quarter economy contracts 8.9% 

May 15, 2020 – Hong Kong’s economy in the first quarter contracted sharply by 8.9% year-on-year as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to disrupt its local economic activities and supply chains. On a seasonally adjusted quarter-to-quarter comparison, real GDP dropped 5.3%. Both rates of decline were the steepest for a single quarter on record. Considering the sharp economic contraction in the first quarter, the high uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, and the grim global economic situation, the real GDP growth forecast for 2020 has been revised downwards to -4% to -7%. The Government will continue to closely monitor the situation and offer supportive economic measures when necessary. Details here

First quarter economy contracts 8.9%
   
Additional funding for universities’ Covid-19 research 

May 15, 2020 – The University Grants Committee and the Research Grants Council have allocated a one-off additional funding of US$32 million (HK$250 million) in total to support research related to COVID-19 and other novel infectious diseases. It is expected that the additional funding can support around 25 medium-size and two to three large-scale research projects.  Details here

Additional funding for universities’ Covid-19 research 
   
Green Finance Certification Scheme launched

May 14, 2020 – The Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency launched its Green Finance Certification Scheme - ESG Fund today. It will provide third-party conformity assessments on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) fund and further promote ESG initiatives towards more green and sustainable uses. “The extension to the ESG fund will promote more disclosure and strengthen market confidence in green financial products”, said Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Mr Christopher Hui, who added that the Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to develop and consolidate Hong Kong as the leading hub for green finance in the region. Details here.

Green Finance Certification Scheme launched
   
Total exports of goods fell 4.6%

May 14, 2020 – The volume of Hong Kong's total exports of goods and imports of goods in March decreased by 4.6% and 10.3% respectively year-on-year. In the same comparison period, the price of total exports of goods dropped 1.4% while imports of goods declined by 0.9%. The total export volume to the US in March fell 27.3% year-on-year. Details here.

Total exports of goods fell 4.6%
   
Genome sequencing project set

May 14, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today the Strategic Development of Genomic Medicine in Hong Kong, with an emphasis to set up a genome sequencing database to help detect undiagnosed cancers. The pilot phase of this large-scale Hong Kong Genome Project focuses on patients and their family members with undiagnosed disorders and hereditary cancers. Up to 50,000 genomes would be sequenced. Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan said that this project would benefit science and data development and also provide a more precise diagnosis and personalized treatment of patients in the future. A budget of US$153 million (HK$1.2 billion) is set aside for this project. Details here.

Genome sequencing project set
   
Facilitating FinTech development

May 14, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to work with relevant sectors to promote and facilitate FinTech development in Hong Kong using a multi-pronged approach, said Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Mr Christopher Hui when he visited Cyberport today. He said Hong Kong's maturing ecosystem, pioneering infrastructure, increasing receptiveness and adoption, conducive and forward-looking regulatory environment, coupled with traditional strengths in financial services, have elevated Hong Kong to one of the major FinTech hubs in Asia. Joining the Cyberport visit, Secretary for Innovation & Technology Alfred Sit said the Government has set aside US$705 million (HK$5.5 billion) for the Cyberport Expansion Project to develop potential emerging digital technology such as InsurTech, RegTech and LawTech. This would provide more opportunities for young people to pursue a career in innovation and technology and further promote the overall I&T development in Hong Kong. Details here.

Facilitating FinTech development
   
Chartered flights for Hong Kong residents in India

May 13, 2020 – The first chartered flight, arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government, to bring Hong Kong residents stranded in India back to Hong Kong is tentatively scheduled for May 17 at the earliest. The flight will assist Hong Kong residents currently located in New Delhi and those in its surrounding areas with special needs, as well as family members travelling with them. The exact date and time of departure are still subject to the approval time of and the facilitation provided by the local government, land traffic situations and relevant permissions received by airlines. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, the people taking the flight will proceed to the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre at AsiaWorld-Expo for compulsory COVID-19 testing. Details here.

Chartered flights for Hong Kong residents in India
   
Government to observe virus trend

May 13, 2020 – Following the confirmation of two new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases for the first time in more than three weeks, the Hong Kong SAR Government will closely observe the trend of the COVID-19 epidemic before deciding whether to adjust social distancing measures, said Under Secretary for Food & Health Dr Chui Tak-yi. Urging the public to remain vigilant, Dr Chui said the battle to curb the COVID-19 outbreak is a long term battle and that sporadic new local cases are unavoidable, citing the resurgence of infections in South Korea and China. The Centre for Health Protection also urged the public to take necessary anti-epidemic measures and maintain personal and environmental hygiene at all times to prevent the spread of virus in the community. Details here.

Government to observe virus trend
   
Samson Young wins the inaugural M+'s Sigg Prize

May 13, 2020 – Hong Kong artist Samson Young has been named the winner of the inaugural Sigg Prize, a new award from the M+ museum, which is slated to open in 2021 in Hong Kong's West Kowloon Cultural District. The jury recognizes Young for his installation ‘Muted Situations #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th’, a multifaceted approach to sound and performance. Last fall, Young had his first US museum exhibition “Samson Young; Silver Moon or Golden Star, Which Will You Buy of Me?” at University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, which was supported by HKETONY. M+ also announced that Beijing-based researcher Yang Zi is the recipient of the inaugural Sigg Fellowship for Chinese Art Research. Details here.  

Samson Young wins the inaugural M+'s Sigg Prize
   
No new local confirmed cases of COVID-19

May 12, 2020 – Hong Kong has recorded no new local confirmed cases today, with the total number of confirmed cases at 1,047. This marked the 23rd day in a row with no local infections. The Centre for Health Protection reminded the public again to reduce social gatherings and avoid non-essential travel outside Hong Kong. Details here.  

No new local confirmed cases of COVID-19
   
LegCo debate to resume

May 12, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government intends to resume the Second Reading debate of 10 Government Bills at the Legislative Council (LegCo) meeting on May 27, said Chief Secretary Mr Matthew Cheung in a letter to the LegCo's House Committee. Of these 10 bills, the Government plans to proceed with the National Anthem Bill and the Trade Marks (Amendment) Bill 2019 first. "The HKSAR Government hopes to work closely together with LegCo Members to make the best use of time in concluding the legislative procedures of the above bills in the remainder of the current term of LegCo in accordance with the priorities," Mr Cheung said. Stressing that the spirit of the National Anthem Bill is respect, a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said the implementation of National Anthem Law by local legislation fully reflects the spirit of “one country, two systems” with due regard to Hong Kong’s common law system. Details here.

LegCo debate to resume
   
No new local confirmed cases of COVID-19

May 11, 2020 – Hong Kong has not reported any new local confirmed cases of COVID-19 today, with the total number of confirmed cases at 1,047. This marked 22 consecutive days with zero local confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Centre for Health Protection again urged the public to avoid all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong and maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene, including hand hygiene, at all times. The latest updates on COVID-19 infections and health advice can be found on the dedicated "COVID-19 Thematic Website". Details here.

No new local confirmed cases of COVID-19
   
Immigration Department wins 2020 Skytrax Award

May 11, 2020 – Hong Kong Immigration Department was named best airport immigration service in the 2020 Skytrax World Airport Awards, based on a worldwide passenger survey of 550 airports worldwide, between Sep 2019 and Feb 2020. This is the fourth time the Department has won this prestigious award in the past six years. It received the recognition in 2015, 2016 and 2019. Details here.

Immigration Department wins 2020 Skytrax Award
   
CuMask+™ safe for use

May 10, 2020 – Hong Kong Secretary for Innovation and Technology Mr Alfred Sit said the CuMask+™ has undergone a very comprehensive and very clear testing and certification process.“The product fully complies with the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM) F2100 Level 1 requirement, so that the product can fully meet the need of protecting our people from COVID-19," he said. Hongkong Post will begin daily door delivery of CuMask+™ to successful registrants of the free CuMask+™ distributed by the Hong Kong SAR Government. Details here.

CuMask+™ safe for use
   
No new COVID-19 cases

May 8, 2020 – Hong Kong has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 today, with the total number of confirmed cases at 1,044. It also marked the 19th day in row with zero local confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Centre for Health Protection once again reminded the public of the importance of social distancing and the practice of personal and environmental hygiene to prevent a community spread. Members of the public should wear a surgical mask when having respiratory symptoms, taking public transport or staying in crowded places. Details here.

No new COVID-19 cases
   
Foreign currency reserve at US$441.2 billion

May 7, 2020 – Hong Kong's foreign currency reserve amounted to US$441.2 billion, as of Apr 30, 2020, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This represents over six times the currency in circulation or about 46% of Hong Kong dollar M3. Details here.

Foreign currency reserve at US$441.2 billion
   
HKEX chief will not seek reappointment

May 7, 2020 – Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited announced today that Mr Charles Li will not seek reappointment as Chief Executive after his current contract ends in October 2021. Financial Secretary Paul Chan expressed his deep appreciation to Mr Li for his exemplary contribution to the development of Hong Kong’s financial market, helping to reinforce the status of Hong Kong as a leading international financial center and rendering Hong Kong as the largest IPO market in the world for seven times in the past 11 years. "He also played a pivotal role in the launch of new listing regime in Hong Kong, the enhanced internationalization of HKEX and its international visibility," said Mr Chan, who added that the Hong Kong SAR Government is confident that the HKEx Board will continue to ensure the success of the HKEx in the future. Details here.

HKEX chief will not seek reappointment
   
More than 1 million residents registered for CuMask+™

May 6, 2020 – Close to 1.38 million Hong Kong residents have registered online for CuMask+™, the free reusable masks distributed by the Hong Kong SAR Government, in the first eight hours of the registration period. The registration period is open until June 6. Information provided to obtain the masks will not be used for other purposes, with multiple security measures in place in compliance with stability and security of the system. The service has also passed an information security risk assessment and audit before launch. Details here.

More than 1 million residents registered for CuMask+™
   
No new local confirmed COVID-19 cases

May 6, 2020 – Hong Kong has recorded no new local confirmed cases of COVID-19 today, with the total number of confirmed cases at 1,040. This marked the 17-day milestone with no new confirmed local cases recorded. The Centre for Health Protection continues to urge the public to stay vigilant and keep social distancing. People are strongly encouraged to maintain at all times strict personal and environmental hygiene, including hand hygiene, especially before touching the face. Details here.

No new local confirmed COVID-19 cases
   
Smart ID card renewal for Hong Kong residents resumes

May 6, 2020 – The Immigration Department announced today the full resumption of the territory-wide identity card replacement exercise from May 11, with a new call-up program for Hong Kong residents born in 1957 to 1963 and 1970 to 1976. To reduce crowd gatherings, applicants who have not made appointment bookings previously should do so via the Internet (www.gov.hk/newicbooking), the ImmD mobile application or the 24-hour telephone booking hotline 2121 1234. Details here.

Smart ID card renewal for Hong Kong residents resumes
   
Green and Sustainable Finance Steering Group set up

May 5, 2020 – The Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group, initiated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission with other government agencies, was inaugurated today. Through regulatory policy and market development, the Steering Group aims to accelerate the growth of green and sustainable finance in Hong Kong and support the climate strategies of the government. It will also facilitate regional cooperation, including in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Welcoming the establishment of the Group, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Christopher Hui, said this would consolidate Hong Kong's position as a premier green and sustainable finance hub. Details here.

Green and Sustainable Finance Steering Group set up
   
Some social-distancing measures eased

May 5, 2020 – With the COVID-19 infection situation stabilizing, Hong Kong will ease some social-distancing measures under the "suppress and lift" strategy to contain the epidemic. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that with no local transmission case for 16 days and the low number of imported cases, "this is the time for lifting". Beginning May 8, the number of people allowed for group gatherings in public places will be raised from four to eight people. In addition, bars, gyms, cinemas, gaming centers, massage parlors and mahjong parlors will resume operation, with some restrictions to prevent physical interactions. Bathhouse, party room, club or night club, and karaoke establishment will remain closed for 14 days. Details here.

Some social-distancing measures eased
   
Free reusable masks for Hong Kong residents

May 5, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government will distribute reusable masks to Hong Kong residents for free. The CuMask+™, a six-layer mask with special ergonomic features developed by the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel, complies with the American Society for Testing and Materials F2100 Level 1 Standard in terms of particle filtration efficiency, bacterial filtration efficiency, resistance to penetration by synthetic blood, flammability and pressure resistance, and is reusable for up to 60 times. All holders of valid Hong Kong Identity Card can register online from May 6 - June 6 for the masks, which will be delivered via Hongkong Post after successful registration. The government will also distribute 140,000 CuMask+ to residential homes and social welfare institutions for distribution to those including the elderly and the homeless. Details here.

Free reusable masks for Hong Kong residents
   
March retail sales fell 42%

May 5, 2020 – March’s value of total retail sales, provisionally estimated at US$2.9 billion (HK$23 billion), fell by 42% year-on-year. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales for the month decreased 43.8% year-on-year. A government spokesman said retail sales continued to plummet in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting anti-epidemic measures that brought a standstill to inbound tourism and seriously disrupted consumption-related activities. The Government will closely monitor developments amid the difficult retail business environment. Details here.

March retail sales fell 42%
No new local COVID-19 cases for over two weeks

May 5, 2020 – Hong Kong has not reported a local transmission COVID-19 case today, with the total number of confirmed cases at 1,040. This marked a 16-day milestone with no new confirmed local cases recorded. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) continues to urge the public to maintain proper social distancing and avoid social activities so as to minimize the risk of infection and community outbreak. People are also strongly urged to avoid all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong and to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene at all times. Details here.

No new local COVID-19 cases for over two weeks
   
Economy recovery to be slow

May 4, 2020 - Financial Secretary Paul Chan cautioned that with the deepening economic recession in the first quarter of 2020, Hong Kong's economic recovery will be slow as the external environment remains challenging even though the local epidemic situation seems to be under control. The Financial Secretary called on Hong Kong people to work together to promote economic development through consumption, adding that, “If the global epidemic situation improves, we will be able to come out of recession gradually towards the end of this year." He also said that the positive impact on the economy would be better felt by the community, upon full implementation of the government's relief measures. And the government stands ready to roll out additional measures to support the people of Hong Kong and their businesses. Details here.

Economy recovery to be slow
   
First quarter economy dips 8.9%

May 4, 2020 – Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 8.9% in the first quarter of 2020 from a year earlier. This is mainly due to the continued weak performance in both domestic and external demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the severe global economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the real GDP growth forecast for 2020 was revised to -4% to -7%. Details here.

First quarter economy dips 8.9%
   
Allegations refuted

May 1, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR had maintained stability and prosperity under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems”, exercising "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law since its return to the Motherland, said a government spokesman, refuting allegations relating to a police arrest operation. The people of Hong Kong enjoy extensive rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the Basic Law. "The Hong Kong SAR Government always respects and protects human rights and freedoms. Any allegation that there has been an erosion in freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people is unfounded," said the spokesman. "However, these rights are not absolute. There are clear limits in the law as to the exercise of these rights. When law is broken, action will be taken in accordance with the criminal justice system." Details here.

Allegations refuted
   
No new confirmed COVID-19 cases for 5 straight days

April 30, 2020 – Hong Kong recorded no new local confirmed COVID-19 cases today, with the total number of confirmed cases remaining at 1,037. This marked the fifth consecutive day with no new confirmed cases recorded. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) continues to urge the public to maintain proper social distancing with other people and avoid social activities to reduce the risk of a community outbreak. Details here.

No new confirmed COVID-19 cases for 5 straight days
   
Chartered flight for Hong Kong residents departs from Islamabad, Pakistan

April 30, 2020 – A chartered flight bringing 319 Hong Kong residents stranded in Pakistan back home departed from Islamabad in the morning on April 30 and is expected to arrive at Hong Kong International Airport at around 7pm (HK time) the same day. Upon arrival, the returnees will proceed to the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre for compulsory COVID-19 testing and then transferred to the quarantine centre for a 14-day mandatory quarantine. The cost for the chartered flight is approximately HK$6,000 (US$770) per person and is borne by the residents. Details here.

Chartered flight for Hong Kong residents departs from Islamabad, Pakistan
   
First chartered flight set for Hong Kong residents in Pakistan

April 29, 2020 – The first chartered flight, arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government, will take around 300 Hong Kong residents from Islamabad, Pakistan to Hong Kong in the morning on April 30 (local time). The cost of the chartered flight is borne by the residents. Upon arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport, all passengers will proceed to the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre at AsiaWorld-Expo for compulsory COVID-19 testing. After collecting deep throat saliva samples, the returnees will be transferred to the quarantine center at Chun Yeung Estate for a 14-day compulsory quarantine period. Details here.

First chartered flight set for Hong Kong residents in Pakistan
   
No new local COVID-19 cases

April 29, 2020 – Hong Kong recorded no new local confirmed COVID-19 cases today, with the total number of confirmed cases staying at 1,037. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) is currently investigating an overseas confirmed case from the UK. The CHP continues to urge members of the public to maintain an appropriate social distance with other people as far as possible in their daily lives to minimize the risk of infection and to minimize the risk of outbreak clusters emerging in the community. Details here.

No new local COVID-19 cases
   
Deficit recorded for 2019-2020 financial year

April 29, 2020 – The Government recorded a deficit of US$1.3 billion (HK$10.6 billion) for the 2019-2020 financial year. Expenditure for the year ended March 31 was at US$77.9 billion (HK$607.8 billion) and revenue at US$75.7 billion (HK$590.9 billion), resulting in the deficit after receipt of net proceeds of US$1 billion (HK$7.8 billion) from issuance of green bonds under the Government Green Bond Programme and repayment of institutional notes of US$192 million (HK$1.5 billion). Fiscal reserves stood at US$148.7 billion. Details here.

Deficit recorded for 2019-2020 financial year
   
HK’s Exchange Fund at US$524.9 billion 

April 29, 2020 – Total assets of Hong Kong's Exchange Fund amounted to US$524.9 billion (HK$4,094.6 billion) as at March 31. This is US$10.6 billion (HK$83.2 billion) lower than at the end of February 2020. Foreign currency assets fell by US$14.6 billion (HK$114.5 billion) while Hong Kong dollar assets grew by US$4 billion (HK$31.3 billion). The monetary base was US$215.3 billion (US$1,679.9 billion). Details here.

HK’s Exchange Fund at US$524.9 billion
   
No new COVID-19 cases for 3 straight days

April 28, 2020 – Hong Kong recorded no new confirmed COVID-19 cases for a third consecutive day, with the total number of confirmed cases at 1,037. This also marked the fifth time in 9 days there were no new cases reported. The Centre for Health Protection continued to stress the importance of social distancing and reminded the public to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene so as to prevent the spread of disease in the community. Details here.

No new COVID-19 cases for 3 straight days
   
Quarantine exemptions set

April 28, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government has announced today that the Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation will be extended to June 7, 2020, with exemptions for cross-boundary students and those whose business activities are in the interest of Hong Kong’s economic development. The first category include persons who need to enter Hong Kong in receiving or providing nursery, kindergarten, primary, or secondary education in Hong Kong, as well as related personnel and service providers. The other category is persons who have manufacturing operations or business activities, or provide professionals services and their traveling is considered to be in the interest of Hong Kong's economic development. Details here.

Quarantine exemptions set
   
Phased resumption of public services

April 28, 2020 - With the stabilizing COVID-19 epidemic situation, public services in Hong Kong will resume in phases on May 4, while maintaining a high degree of vigilance and adopting all necessary precautionary measures. Libraries, museums, and outdoor venues of public facilities, such as sports grounds would reopen in phases beginning May 4. The resumption of public services under the first phase will be subject to the continuation of social distancing and precautionary measures and various infection control measures will also continue to be implemented in government buildings and venues such as body temperature checks at entrances and provision of hand sanitizer. Details here.

Phased resumption of public services
   
No new confirmed cases of COVID-19

April 27, 2020 – No new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Hong Kong today. This marked the second consecutive day that Hong Kong has no new confirmed COVID-19 cases. The total number of confirmed cases in the city stands at 1,037. The Centre for Health Protection continues to urged the public to maintain social distancing with other people as far as possible in their daily lives to minimize the risk of infection. A spokesman for the CHP advised the public to cancel non-essential travel outside of Hong Kong during this time as COVID-19 infection remains severe around the world.
Details here.

No new confirmed cases of COVID-19
   
US$14.2 million funding for COVID-19 research

April 27, 2020 – A total funding of US$14.2 million (HK$111 million), under the Health and Medical Research Fund approved by the Research Council, was given to the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong to conduct 26 medical research studies on COVID-19. The funding will support research programs covering a wide range of topics including development of vaccines and novel antiviral drug candidates, and characteristics, spread, infection and effective therapeutic interventions of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The studies will last from 12 months to 24 months.
Details here.

US$14.2 million funding for COVID-19 research
   
March’s export of goods fell

April 27, 2020 – The volume of Hong Kong’s total exports of goods and imports of goods both recorded year-on-year decreases, at 5.8% and 11.1% respectively in March. The value of total exports of goods fell to US$41.4 billion (HK$323.6 billion), after a 4.3% year-on-year increase in February.  March's value of imports of goods decreased to US$45.9 billion (HK$358.4 billion), after a year-on-year decrease of 0.1% in February. In the first quarter of 2020, total export volume to the USA fell 27.4% year-on-year. The value of imports from the US to HK also fell 19% in the same period. Details here.

March’s export of goods fell
   
Chartered flights planned for Hong Kong residents

April 25, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government said it is planning chartered flights to bring back Hong Kong residents stranded in India and Pakistan. The governments of India and Pakistan have banned all international flight movements since late March due to the coronavirus outbreak. As of April 24, the Immigration Department (ImmD) has successfully contacted about 3,200 and 2,000 Hong Kong residents respectively stranded in India and Pakistan. The ImmD will continue to contact the remaining assistance seekers to facilitate follow-up. Hong Kong residents in India and Pakistan who have yet to contact the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) but wish to take the chartered flights to depart from India and Pakistan to Hong Kong, should call ImmD's 24-hour hotline (852) 1868 or email to 1868@immd.gov.hk for assistance. Details here.

Chartered flights planned for Hong Kong residents
   
HK stays alert in fight against COVID-19

April 25, 2020 – Despite the significant drop in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recently, the Hong Kong SAR Government remains alert given the volatility of the epidemic, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam. She added that the Government will constantly adjust the "suppress and lift" anti-epidemic measures and strategy according to the actual situation of the epidemic and also continue its effort to keep workers employed, relieve the financial burden of businesses and members of the public, and pave the way for post-epidemic economic recovery. Details here.  

HK stays alert in fight against COVID-19
   
All local mask production lines fully allocated

April 24, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government has approved the remaining seven production lines under the Local Mask Production Subsidy Scheme today. Together with the 13 production lines approved earlier, the quota of 20 production lines has  been fully allocated. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, said this was a significant milestone for the scheme, which opened for applications on March 2. Noting the need for children's masks, he said the Government will designate one production line for children’s masks. The other 19 subsidized production lines will continue to produce masks for adults. It is estimated that when all 20 lines are in full production, they will collectively provide 34.55 million masks and 8.15 million masks each month to the Government and the local market respectively . Details here.

All local mask production lines fully allocated
   
Revised capital rules under Banking Ordinance gazetted

April 24, 2020 – Promulgated by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the Banking Rules were gazetted today to implement the latest international standards on banking regulations. A Hong Kong SAR Government spokesperson said that the continued implementation of Basel III standard underlines Hong Kong’s commitment to bring the financial hub's regulatory regime in line with the latest international standards. It will further enhance the resilience of banks and contribute to the overall stability of the banking system in Hong Kong. The BCAR 2020 will come into operation on June 30, 2021. Details here.

Revised capital rules under Banking Ordinance gazetted
   
March inflation up 2.3%

April 23, 2020 – Overall consumer prices rose 2.3% year-on-year in March, compared to the average increase of 1.8% in January and February. Netting out the effects of all Government’s one-off relief measures, the underlying inflation rate in March was 2.6%, lower than that of the average of 3.1% in January and February. The month saw year-on-year increases for food (excluding meals bought away from home), miscellaneous goods, housing, meals bought away from home, transport and miscellaneous services. Year-on-year decreases were recorded for electricity, gas and water, clothing and footwear, durable goods, as well as alcoholic drinks and tobacco. Details here.

March inflation up 2.3%
   
US Dollar liquidity facility set at US$10 billion

April 22, 2020 – In light of the volatilities and uncertainties in the global financial markets brought by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced today the launch of a temporary US Dollar Liquidity Facility to help alleviate tightness in the global US dollar interbank money markets. A total of US$10 billion is currently available at the Facility. Beginning May 6, 2020, the HKMA will conduct a tender every week with a minimum of US$100 million per valid bid and an integral multiple of US$100 million. Details here.

US Dollar liquidity facility set at US$10 billion
   
New principal officials appointed

April 22, 2020 – The State Council, on the recommendation by the Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, approved today the appointment of five Principal Officials. They are Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip, Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui, Secretary for Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang, Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Christopher Hui and Secretary for Innovation & Technology Alfred Sit. Expressing confidence that they would lead their respective policy bureaux to rise to the challenges in serving the community, the Chief Executive said with her new political team, she hopes to start immediately planning for Hong Kong’s economic recovery, especially in such sectors as financial services, innovation and technology, professional services and the creative industries and the many opportunities that will be available to Hong Kong under the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Details here.

New principal officials appointed
   
Social distancing measures updated

April 21, 2020 – With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong stabilizing, the Secretary for Food and Health will suspend the requirement for the number of customers in catering business premises to be below 50% of the normal seating capacity of the premises. However, tables must be kept 5-feet (1.5 meters) apart or separated by partitions. To safeguard against any sudden turn in the COVID-19 situation, all other implemented requirements regarding catering business, scheduled premises and prohibition of group gathering will be extended for 14 days, effective till May 7, 2020. Leisure and sports venues, along with other establishments such as bars, pubs, beauty salons, karaoke bars and fitness centers would remain closed until then. Details here.

Social distancing measures updated
   
HK$1,550 million spent to buy US dollars

April 21, 2020 – The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) sold HK1,550 million (US$198.7 million) to the market in exchange for US dollars. This is the first triggering of the strong-side CU since October 2015. The strong-side Covertibility Undertaking of HK$7.75 to US$1 was triggered during Hong Kong trading hours. The Chief Executive of the HKMA, Mr Eddie Yue said the move was conducted in accordance with the Linked Exchange Rate System's design, which has been operating effectively. He added that the HKMA will continue to closely monitor the market situation and ensure Hong Kong's money and foreign exchange markets operate smoothly. Details here.

HK$1,550 million spent to buy US dollars
   
Financial institutional strength and core competitiveness remain strong

April 20, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government expressed disappointment with Fitch’s latest credit assessment, changing Hong Kong’s credit rating to “AA-” from “AA”. Fitch also adjusted the credit outlook to “stable” from “negative”. A Government spokesman said the decision “reflects a disproportionate emphasis on prevailing socio-political issues without giving due recognition to the strong fundamentals underpinning the local economy and financial market.” While the COVID-19 pandemic had dealt an unprecedented and severe blow to the global economy, the impact on Hong Kong was no more significant than on other places. Massive relief measures of US$36.8 billion have been rolled out to preserve the vitality of the economy and to help businesses and people endure the current hardship. Despite the unprecedented challenges, Hong Kong’s institutional strengths and core competitiveness are unscathed and the city’s financial markets and banking system are functioning normally. Details here.

Financial institutional strength and core competitiveness remain strong
   
New testing arrangements for asymptomatic visitors

April 20, 2020 – Starting April 22, all asymptomatic inbound travelers arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport must wait for their COVID-19 test results at a designated location before being allowed to leave for a 14-day compulsory quarantine. Passengers arriving by flights in the early or late morning will stay at the Temporary Specimen Collection Centre at AsiaWorld-Expo to wait for same-day results, while passengers arriving in the afternoon or at night will be taken to a nearby hotel to wait for test results. Details here.

New testing arrangements for asymptomatic visitors
   
Unemployment rate at 4.2%

April 20, 2020 – The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.2% (January – March 2020) from 3.7% (December 2019 – February 2020). The underemployment rate also increased to 2.1% (January – March 2020) compared to the previous three-months period. Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong said, the labor market showed further sharp deterioration as the COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted a wide range of economic activities, with the labor market continuing to face significant pressure. He is hopeful that the relief measures by the Government will preserve the vitality of the economy and relieve people’s financial burdens. Details here.

Unemployment rate at 4.2%
   
Prosecutorial independence assured

April 19, 2020 – A Government spokesman reiterated that the Department of Justice has always been “discharging the constitutional duty independently and professionally, without fear or favor”. All prosecutorial decisions are based on admissible evidence, applicable laws and the Prosecution Code, without political consideration. Cases will not be handled any differently owing to the political beliefs or background of the persons involved. Details here.

Prosecutorial independence assured
   
Anti-epidemic funding welcomed

April 18, 2020 – Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, welcomed the passage of the funding application for the second round of the Anti-epidemic Fund and other relief measures by the Legislative Council Finance Committee. She expressed her heartfelt thanks to the Committee for passing the funding application worth US$17.6 billion (HK$137.5 billion) to achieve the goal of safeguarding jobs and supporting enterprises under the influence of COVID-19. Details here.

Anti-epidemic funding welcomed
   
Enhanced commitment to Special 100% Loan Guarantee

April 18, 2020 – The total guarantee commitment of the Special 100% Loan Guarantee under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme has been increased to US$6.41 billion (HK$50 billion), announced by HKMC Insurance Limited (Apr 18). The maximum loan amount per enterprise has been increased to US$512,820 (HK$4 million) and the principal moratorium arrangement has been extended to the first 12 months. The Special 100% Loan Guarantee will accept applications starting April 20, for one year. Details here.

Enhanced commitment to Special 100% Loan Guarantee
   
Banks to ease cashflow pressure

April 17, 2020 - Hong Kong's banking sector launched a scheme to alleviate the cashflow pressure faced by corporate customers in light of the economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak. The Pre-approved Principal Payment Holiday Scheme, jointly announced by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Banking Sector SME Lending Coordination Mechanism, is estimated to cover more than 80% of all corporate borrowers in Hong Kong. All corporate customers that have an annual sales turnover of US$102.5 million (HK$800 million) or less, with no outstanding loan payments overdue for more than 30 days are eligible for the Scheme. Eligible customers’ loan principal payments due within a six-month period between May 1 and October 31 this year will be pre-approved for deferment. The scheme does not cover syndicated loans or loans used for financing purchases of shares or other financial assets. Details here

Banks to ease cashflow pressure
   
More local mask production lines approved

April 17, 2020 – Five additional local mask production lines have been approved under the Local Mask Production Subsidy Scheme. Each production line is expected to supply an average of 550,000 to 2 million masks every month. To date, a total of 13 production lines have been approved under the Scheme. This is an effort by the Hong Kong SAR Government to facilitate local production of masks to help address the shortage as well as to build up stock. Details here.

More local mask production lines approved
   
Exchange Fund's foreign assets at US$458.2 billion

Apr 15, 2020 – Foreign assets that represent the external assets of Hong Kong's Exchange Fund was at US$458.2 billion (HK$3,574 billion), a US$10 billion (HK$78.7 billion) decrease from the previous month. The monetary base amounted to US$215.3 billion (US$1,679.9 billion). Claims on the private sector in Hong Kong was at US$29.7 billion (HK$231.7 billion). Details here.

Exchange Fund's foreign assets at US$458.2 billion
   
Support for enterprises strengthened

April 9, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government is further strengthening support for enterprises facing operational difficulties by rolling out enhancement measures within this month to the Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales, and the SME Export Marketing Fund. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said the COVID-19 outbreak, together with the US-China trade conflict since 2018 and the social incidents in the latter half of 2019, poses unprecedented challenges to the business environment. "We consider it necessary to introduce further support measures to tide enterprises over this difficult time and get well prepared for long-term economic development," he said. Details here.

Support for enterprises strengthened
   
New enhanced measures for exporters

April 9, 2020 – The Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation (HKECIC) is implementing a new round of enhanced measures to support Hong Kong exporters, in particular SMEs, in view of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has disrupted the supply chain and business activities, putting high pressure on the already difficult operating environment.These new measures, which will benefit about 2,600 policy holders, will help to reduce risks and alleviate financial burden. It will be effective for one year until 31 March 2021. Details here.

New enhanced measures for exporters
   
Tax payment deadline extended by three months  

April 9, 2020 – To ease the financial burden and cash flow of businesses and individuals arising from COVID-19, the Chief Executive announced (April 8) that salaries tax, personal assessment and profits tax demand notes that are due in April to June this year for the year of 2018/19 will be extended automatically by three months. Details here.

Tax payment deadline extended by three months
   
Suspension of Speedpost to the US; Only surface mail available

April 9, 2020 – Starting from April 14, Hongkong Post will suspend Speedpost services to the United States due to substantial reduction in flight frequencies by airlines and thus inability to provide air traffic capacity to cope with the huge volume of Speedpost items conveyed to the US. In lieu of that, the public may consider using surface mail for posting items to the US. The estimated journey time for surface mail to the US would take about 31 days. Details here.

Suspension of Speedpost to the US; Only surface mail available
   
HKMA to increase Hong Kong Dollar liquidity

April 9, 2020 – To increase the overall Hong Kong dollar liquidity in the interbank market, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced plans to reduce the issue size of 91-day Exchange Fund Bills by USD$2.56 billion (HK$20 billion) in total, across four regular tenders in April and May. Notwithstanding the plan, the HKMA will monitor market situations and the effect of each reduction, and reserves the flexibility of not executing all the four reductions as needed. Details here.

HKMA to increase Hong Kong Dollar liquidity
   
Relief package unveiled

Apr 8, 2020 – Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, announced today a US$17.7 billion (HK$137.5 billion) of supportive measures to help businesses stay afloat, keep workers in employment, relieve financial burdens of individuals and businesses and revive the economy once the epidemic is contained. The measures include a US$10.2 billion (HK$80 billion) Employment Support Scheme for eligible employers to provide wage subsidies, and US$2.69 billion (HK$21 billion) fund to support specific sectors. The Government will also enhance the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme and help the MTR Corporate provide a 20% fare discount. Together with the US$3.84 billion (HK$30 billion) under the first round of the Anti-epidemic Fund and the US$15.38 billion (HK$120 billion) in Budget measures, the total fiscal implication is US$36.86 billion (HK$287.5 billion), representing 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. "With Hong Kong's fundamental strengths and our people's resilience, we are confident that our city can ride out this storm and Hong Kong can be relaunched," Mrs Lam said. Details here.

Relief package unveiled
   
Social distancing measures extended  

Apr 8, 2020 – To curb local transmission of COVID-19, the Hong Kong SAR Government will extend measures regulating catering business premises, scheduled premises and prohibiting group gatherings to April 23. Effective for 14 days from April 10 to 23, new directions include requirements imposed on all catering businesses such as restricting the number of customers, closures of beauty parlors and massage establishments in addition to entertaining and amusement premises. In addition, requirements imposed on all club-houses and prohibition of group gatherings of more than four people in public spaces will also remain in force until April 23. Details here.

Social distancing measures extended
   
Hong Kong residents to depart Morocco on chartered flight

Apr 8, 2020 – A total of 27 Hong Kong residents will return to the city on board the chartered flight, arranged by the Chinese Embassy in Morocco. The chartered flight is scheduled to depart from Casablanca on April 9 and arrive in Guangzhou on 10.  The cost of the flight will be borne by the passengers. At present, Hong Kong residents in Morocco cannot depart through normal flight arrangement as the country has declared a national emergency and imposed strict restrictions on all marine, land and air traffic. Upon arrival in Guangzhou by noon of April 10, all air passengers are required to undergo local 14-day isolation for medical surveillance as required under the health management on the Mainland. Details here

Hong Kong residents to depart Morocco on chartered flight
   
Enhanced health measures on inbound travelers

Apr 7, 2020 – All asymptomatic inbound travelers arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport from April 8 onwards will be mandated to undergo COVID-19 testing. Deep throat saliva samples will be collected at the Department of Health's Temporary Specimen Collection Centre at the AsiaWorld-Expo before these travellers will be allowed to go home for mandatory quarantine. People arriving from the UK will be required to stay at the test center until their test results come back. If a sample tests positive, arrangement will be made for the person to be admitted to hospital for treatment while the close contacts who travelled with them will be sent to designated quarantine centers. Details here.

Enhanced health measures on inbound travelers
   
Foreign currency reserve at US$437.5 billion

Apr 7, 2020 – Total assets of Hong Kong foreign current reserve amounted to US$437.5 billion, as of March 31, 2020, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This represents over six times the currency in circulation or about 45 percent of Hong Kong dollar M3. Details here.

Foreign currency reserve at US$437.5 billion
   
Entry restriction on non-Hong Kong residents extended 

April 6, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government will extend, until further notice, the entry restriction on non-Hong Kong residents coming from overseas countries and those having been to overseas countries or regions in the past 14 days prior to arrival at Hong Kong. In addition, all transit services at the Hong Kong International Airport will also continue to be suspended for the time being. Details here.

Entry restriction on non-Hong Kong residents extended 
   
Hong Kong people in Peru returned safely 

April 5, 2020 – A total of 65 Hong Kong residents stranded in Peru returned to Hong Kong safely via chartered flights arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government. All people who were on the chartered flights underwent COVID-19 testing and are now waiting for results. If tested negative, they will return home to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Details here.

Hong Kong people in Peru returned safely 
   
HKMA and banking sector extend support for SMEs

Apr 3, 2020 – The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the banking sector introduced several new initiatives to alleviate cash-flow pressure for the city's SMEs affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The new measures, which include obtaining US dollars through the US Fed's repo facility, aim to increase liquidity in the banking sector to support local economic activities. Details here.

HKMA and banking sector extend support for SMEs
   
Hong Kong residents to depart Peru on chartered flight

Apr 3, 2020 – A chartered flight, arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government, will take Hong Kong residents from Lima, Peru to London on April 3 afternoon (local time). These residents will then take a connecting flight back to Hong Kong. The cost will be borne by the residents. Upon arrival in Hong Kong on April 5, all passengers will proceed to the Centre for Health Protection’s testing center for mandatory COVID-19 testing and thereafter a 14-day compulsory home quarantine. Details here.

Hong Kong residents to depart Peru on chartered flight
   
Bars and pubs to close for two weeks

Apr 2, 2020 – With the emergence of COVID-19 cases related to bars and bands cluster and further spread of cases to people who had not visited the bars, the Hong Kong SAR Government is ordering the closure of bars and pubs, club-house, and catering premises that sell or supply intoxicating liquors for on-site consumption, for a period of 14 days starting from 6pm on April 3, 2020. This is to further enhance social distancing and curb social activities in the effort to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community. Details here.

Bars and pubs to close for two weeks
   
Door-to-door specimen collection service available 

Apr 2, 2020 – Inbound travellers who are under the COVID-19 surveillance program can make use of a door-to-door specimen collection service beginning April 3 to submit their deep throat saliva specimen to the Department of Health (DH) for coronavirus testing. Under the Enhanced Laboratory Surveillance Programme for COVID-19 testing, DH is providing free COVID-19 testing service for asymptomatic inbound travellers from overseas. The Cyberport Startup Alumni Association, with two of its member companies, GoGoTech (“GOGOVAN”) and HK PICK-UP (“Pikcupp”), can provide this door-to-door service at a cost of US$12.8. Details here.

Door-to-door specimen collection service available 
   
Business restrictions gazetted 

April 1, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government has gazetted the Prevention and Control of Disease (Business and Premises) Regulation today, empowering the Secretary for Food and Health, to issue directions, for public health reasons, to restrict the mode of operation, operating hours, or require the closure of beauty parlors, clubhouses, nightclubs as well as premises for karaoke, mahjong tin-kau and massage establishments. The Secretary issued directions today for the closures of karaoke, mahjong-tin kau establishments, and clubs as well as the suspension of karaoke and mahjong tink-kau activities in catering premises and clubhouses, through April 15. This is part of measures to further enhance social distancing and protect public health. Details here.

Business restrictions gazetted 
   
Flight set for Hong Kong people in Peru 

March 31, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government said it will charter a flight to assist Hong Kong residents stranded in Peru to leave the country smoothly. The cost of the flight will be borne by the passengers. At present, Hong Kong residents currently in Peru cannot leave through normal flight arrangements as the country has declared a state of emergency and imposed strict restrictions on all land and air traffic. The government will arrange a chartered flight from Lima to London on April 3, followed by a connecting flight with secured flight bookings back to Hong Kong. Hong Kong residents in Peru who have yet to contact the Assistance to Hong Kong residents Unit but wish to take the chartered flight out of Peru to London and then return to Hong Kong should call the department's 24-hour hotline (852) 1868 or email 1868@immd.gov.hk for assistance by March 31, Peru time. Details here.

Flight set for Hong Kong people in Peru
   
Deficit recorded for April 2019 – February 2020 

March 31, 2020 – The Government recorded a deficit of US$756 million in the month of February. Expenditure for the 11-month period was at US$68.6 billion and revenue at US$70.2 billion, resulting in the cumulative year-to-date surplus at US$2.4 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. Fiscal reserves stood at US$152.5 billion. Details here

Deficit recorded for April 2019 – February 2020 
   
February retail sales dropped 44% 

March 31, 2020 – The value of total retail sales in February, provisionally estimated at US$2.9 billion, fell 44% year-on-year. After netting out the effect of price changes in the same period, the volume of total retail sales decreased by 46.7% year-on-year. Retail sales plunged sharply and showed the largest year-on-year decline for a single month on record, reflecting the heavy blow to tourism and consumption-related activities affected by COVID-19. Details here

February retail sales dropped 44% 
   
Exchange fund at US$535.6 billion 

March 31, 2020 – Total assets of the Exchange Fund was at US$535.6 billion as at Feb 29, 2020. This is US$2 billion lower than the previous month. Hong Kong dollar assets decreased by US$4.2 billion while foreign currency assets increased by US$2.1 billion. Details here

Exchange fund at US$535.6 billion 
   
Free trade agreement and investment agreement between HK and the Philippines launched 

March 31, 2020 – The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and Investment Agreement (IA), signed between Hong Kong and the Philippines in March this year, will take effect on May 12. Under the FTA, Hong Kong service providers will enjoy better business opportunities and legal certainty in market access for a comprehensive range of service sectors in the Philippines. The IA will provide Hong Kong enterprises with fair and equitable treatment as well as free transfer of investments and returns. With the latest agreement with the Philippines, a total of seven ASEAN member states are now under FTA and IA with Hong Kong. Details here

Free trade agreement and investment agreement between HK and the Philippines launched 
   
New measures to curb COVID-19

March 27, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government announced new regulations to combat the spread of COVID-19. These measures, aimed at enforcing social distancing, include a ban on gatherings of more than four people in a public place,  and the closure of all entertaining and amusement premises. Speaking at a press conference, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said there will be exemptions for the four-person limit regulation such as in the workplace and at weddings. This regulation will come into effect for 14 days from March 29. Under a second regulation, restaurants are required only to serve half their capacity of customers and venues such as cinemas, fitness centers, and amusement game centers will close for two weeks, beginning March 28. All country park barbecue sites and campsites managed by the government will also be closed starting from March 28 through April 11. Details here.

New measures to curb COVID-19
   
Addition local mask production lines approved 

March 27, 2020 – Six additional local mask production lines are now approved under the Local Mask Production Subsidy Scheme. Each line is expected to supply an average of between one to two million masks from April onwards. Together with the two production lines approved last week, a total of eight production lines have been approved under the scheme. This is one of the Hong Kong SAR Government’s initiatives under the Anti-epidemic Fund to help address the shortage of masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Details here.

Addition local mask production lines approved 
   
Postal services to US adjusted 

March 27, 2020 – Due to substantial reduction in flight frequencies or even cancellation of flights, the time needed for handing in posted items to airlines is subject to considerable delays of more than two weeks, according to Hongkong Post. All airmail delivery services, including Speedpost, to the United States are subject to delays. Details here.

Postal services to US adjusted 
   
Hong Kong people in Hubei returned safely

March 26, 2020 – A total of 558 Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei Province returned safely to Hong Kong via four chartered flights arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government on March 25 and 26. All people who were taking the chartered flights back to Hong Kong have undergone health assessment. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, all passengers were required to undergo temperature checks and began 14 days of compulsory home quarantine. Details here.

Hong Kong people in Hubei returned safely
   
February's exports up 4.3%

March 26, 2020 – The value of Hong Kong's total exports rose to US$30.5 billion (HK$238.6 billion), up 4.3% year-on-year. The value of imports of goods dipped 0.1% to US$35.5 billion (HK$277.1 billion) for the same period. Taking the first two months of 2020 together, the value of total exports of goods decreased by 12% year-on-year, reflecting the serious disruptions to regional trading and production activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The value of imports of goods fell 9.3%, with a visible trade deficit of US$8.8 billion (HK$69.1 billion) recorded in the first two months of the year. During the first two months of 2020, total exports to the USA fell 26.4% year-on-year while the value of imports from the USA decreased by 11.7% compared to the same period last year. Details here.

February's exports up 4.3%
   
Suspension of poultry products from South Carolina 

March 26, 2020 – Due to the outbreak of low pathogenic H7N3 avian influenza in the Chesterfield County in South Carolina in the United States, Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety has suspended the import of poultry meat and products, including poultry eggs, from the aforementioned area with immediate effect to protect public health in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong imported about 690 tonnes of chilled poultry meat, 257,970 tonnes of frozen poultry meat and 642 million poultry eggs from the US last year. Details here.  

Suspension of poultry products from South Carolina
   
Second batch of flights for Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei 

March 25, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government has dispatched the second batch of chartered flights to bring back 281 Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei Province. All are people who have urgent needs to return to Hong Kong, including people suffering from serious illnesses, children who are sick, and students who are taking the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination. All passengers on the chartered flights had completed health assessment by DH staff before and after arrival. Upon landing, they will undergo a 14-day quarantine period. The Hong Kong SAR team will depart for Wuhan March 26 morning to bring back another batch of some 280 people to Hong Kong. Details here.

Second batch of flights for Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei 
   
Free COVID-19 testing available for inbound travelers from the US 

March 25, 2020 – The Centre for Health Protection has extended free testing for COVID-19 to asymptomatic inbound travellers arriving from the United States, beginning March 25 afternoon. In light of the increasing demand for COVID-19 testing for inbound travelers from overseas, the Department of Health will set up a temporary specimen collection center at the AsiaWorld-Expo, starting March 26, to speed up the collection of test specimen and to help ease difficulties for the submission of specimen. This temporary specimen collection center will operate daily from 7:30am to 11pm. Details here.

Free COVID-19 testing available for inbound travelers from the US 
   
Enhanced support for person under quarantine

March 25, 2020 – The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer announced that more manpower has been deployed to support the existing telephone hotline "StayHomeSafe" mobile app for people under compulsory quarantine. Apart from that, a new Email and SMS channels were also set up to provide further assistance. Details here.

Enhanced support for person under quarantine
   
Quarantine regulation gazetted 

March 24, 2020 – The quarantine regulation to extend the compulsory 14-days quarantine arrangements for all inbound travelers, including those arriving from or having stayed in Macao and Taiwan in the past 14 days prior to arrival, was gazetted today. The Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong (Amendment) Regulation will begin at midnight March 25 and will be effective till midnight of May 7. It is a further measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in Hong Kong. Along with the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation that came into effect on March 19, the regulation stipulates that all inbound travelers would be subject to compulsory quarantine, unless exempted. Details here.

Quarantine regulation gazetted
   
New Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal appointed

March 24, 2020 –  Andrew Cheung has been appointed as Hong Kong's next Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal. He will take up the position on January 11, 2021, succeeding Mr Geoffrey Ma. Congratulating Mr Cheung on the impending appointment, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said he is a person of high integrity and commands strong respect both within the Judiciary and from the legal profession. "As Chief Judge of the High Court for over seven years, he possesses strong administrative experience in the operation of the Judiciary," said Mrs Lam. The Chief Executive reiterated that the rule of law is the cornerstone of Hong Kong's stability and prosperity. "An independent Judiciary plays a pivotal and indispensable role in upholding the rule of law and in ensuring the fair administration of justice; these are well recognized strengths of Hong Kong's judicial system. Throughout the years, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has been rendering all necessary support to the Judiciary in sustaining effective judicial administration," she said, adding that the Government will continue to provide the same support to Mr Cheung and members of the judiciary. Details here.

New Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal appointed
   
Hong Kong bans non-residents  

March 23, 2020 – In light of the spike in imported COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, the Government will deny entry to non-Hong Kong residents coming from overseas countries for 14 days, effective midnight on March 25. All travelers from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan will be barred from entry if they have visited a foreign country in the past 14 days. This is part of the effort to stop the surge of coronavirus infections in the city. Details here.

Hong Kong bans non-residents
   
Businesses barred from selling alcohol

March 23, 2020 – Amid rising concerns over the increasing COVID-19 cases in the community, the Government is planning to temporarily suspend the sale of alcohol at around 8,600 restaurants, bars, and clubs with liquor licenses in the city. Supermarkets and alcohol retailers are not covered in the ban. This would reduce social contacts and gathering and further reinforce the efforts by Hong Kong people to maintain social distancing as much as possible as part of the anti-epidemic work. Details here.

Businesses barred from selling alcohol
   
February inflation grew 2.2%

March 23, 2020 – Overall consumer prices rose 2.2% year-on-year in February, compared to 1.4% in January. Netting out the effects of the Government’s one-off relief measures, the underlying inflation rate was 2.5%, lower than 3.7% in January. The month saw year-on-year price increases for food, miscellaneous goods, housing, meals bought away from home, transport, alcoholic drinks, and tobacco. Year-on-year price decreases were recorded in February for electricity, gas and water, clothing and footwear, durable goods, and miscellaneous services. Details here.

February inflation grew 2.2%
   
Enhanced health measures introduced

March 22, 2020 – In response to the intensifying situation of the COVID-19 infection from imported cases from abroad, the Government is implementing a series of measures for disease control. They include strengthening the testing program for people returning to Hong Kong and disease prevention at residential care homes for the elderly. People returning to Hong Kong are expected to strictly abide by the compulsory quarantine regulations. Anyone contravening the order will be prosecuted immediately. To protect students’ health, the start date of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination will be deferred to April 24. Public services will also be limited to provide essential and emergency use only. Some public facilities that reopened will be temporarily closed again. Details here.

Enhanced health measures introduced
   
Cathay Pacific to reduce flights to US in April and May

March 20, 2020 - Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon will reduce capacity by 96% across its passenger network in April and May in light of the severe drop in demand due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and multiple government travel restrictions that form part of the global health response plan. The airlines intend to operate a bare skeleton passenger flight schedule in April and May, while keeping the freighter capacity intact. In North America, Cathay Pacific will operate three flights per week to Los Angeles and Vancouver only. Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon are waiving rebooking, rerouting and cancellation fees. Details here.

Cathay Pacific to reduce flights to US in April and May
   
"StayHomeSafe" quarantine mobile app activated 

March 20, 2020 – SMS messages to activate the “StayHomeSafe” mobile app have already been sent out to inbound travelers arriving at Hong Kong International Airport. This is a new monitoring method, combining the existing electronic wristbands with the mobile app, with the aim to better support the compulsory quarantine measures. Details here.

"StayHomeSafe" quarantine mobile app activated 
   
Proposed installation of Hong Kong-Americas submarine optical fiber cable gazetted

March 20, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government has proposed to install a submarine optical fiber cable, part of the new Hong Kong Americas submarine cable network, from Chung Hom Kok to the eastern boundary of the HKSAR. This new trans-Pacific optical fiber communications system will connect Hong Kong and the United States and further increase the bandwidth between the two places, thus strengthening Hong Kong as the key communication hub in the Asia-Pacific region. The construction is planned to begin in the second quarter of this year and be completed in the third quarter. Details here.

Proposed installation of Hong Kong-Americas submarine optical fiber cable gazetted
   
Local mask production lines approved

March 20, 2020 – Two local masks production lines are now approved under the Local Mask Production Subsidy Scheme. Topwill Passion Limited is expected to supply an average of 2 million masks to the Government every month beginning Apr 20 while Shang Manufactory is planning to supply an average of 800,000 masks to the Government every month starting May 5. This is part of the Hong Kong SAR Government's scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund to facilitate local production of mask so as to alleviate shortage and build up stock. Details here.

Local mask production lines approved
   
New loan plan for SMEs

March 20, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government welcomes the approval of a new loan guarantee commitment of US$2.56 billion (HK$20 billion) that will help provide timely assistance to enterprises affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Under a new Special 100 percent Guarantee Product, the Government will provide a 100 percent guarantee for approved loans taken out by eligible enterprises. This greatly enhances the chances for enterprises in securing loans. The product is set to launch within April. Details here

New loan plan for SMEs
   
Free COVID-19 testing service extended; Temporary testing centers set up

March 19, 2020 – In light of the increasing volume of inbound travellers arriving at Hong Kong, the Centre for Health Protection has extended the free testing service for COVID-19 to cover asymptomatic inbound travellers under the compulsory quarantine regulation. The measure aims to identify cases of COVID-19 early to minimize the risk of community transmission. Anticipating a large number of inbound travellers suspected to be infected with COVID-19, the Hospital Authorities is setting up test centers at the Asia World-Expo and the North Lantau Hospital. People arriving Hong Kong, via Hong Kong International Airport, with upper respiratory symptoms will be sent to the two test centers for the viral test and to wait for the laboratory results. Both test centers have designated waiting areas and individual waiting places. Internet access and charging facilities will be provided. The waiting area facilities and arrangements are in compliance with infection control standards. Details here.

Free COVID-19 testing service extended; Temporary testing centers set up
   
January's exports of goods fell

March 19, 2020 – The volume of Hong Kong’s total exports of goods and imports of goods decreased by 22.9% and 16.8%, respectively, compared with January 2019. Total export volume to the USA in January 2020 fell 32.2% year-on-year. The total export prices to the USA dipped by 0.1% in the same comparison period. Details here.

January's exports of goods fell
   
Compulsory quarantine law gazetted 

March 18, 2020 – To combat the COVID-19 global outbreak, the Hong Kong SAR Government passed the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap. 599E) on March 18, to impose compulsory quarantine orders on all persons arriving from all places outside China, starting midnight on March 19. Under the regulation, all people, regardless of nationality and travel documents used, will be subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days. Details here.

Compulsory quarantine law gazetted 
   
Hong Kong enjoys press freedom

March 18, 2020 - Hong Kong enjoys press freedom and the Government has been facilitating media organizations and journalists from other countries to cover news in the city. The Government said Hong Kong has always adopted a pragmatic and open policy on the employment of professionals in Hong Kong, allowing those possessing special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available locally to work in Hong Kong, including journalistic work. It made the remarks in response to media enquiries relating to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement, “China Takes Countermeasures Against Restrictive Measures on Chinese Media Agencies in the US”, setting out the ministry's position on the acts of the US side and the countermeasures adopted to reciprocate. Details here.

Hong Kong enjoys press freedom
   
Postal services to US subject to delay 

March 18, 2020 – Hongkong Post announced that air mail to the United States may be subject to delays of more than one week due to the substantial reduction in flight frequencies. Details here.

Postal services to US subject to delay
   
Suspension of poultry products from North Carolina

March 18, 2020 – Due to the outbreaks of low pathogenic H7N3 avian influenza in the Union County and Anson County in the State of North Carolina, United States, Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety has suspended the import of poultry meat and products, including poultry eggs, from the aforementioned areas with immediate effect. Details here.

Suspension of poultry products from North Carolina
   
Travel Alert on all overseas countries issued; Quarantine measures for all inbound travelers

March 17, 2020 – The Hong Kong SAR Government has issued the Red Outbound Travel Alert on all overseas countries/ territories in view of the continuing and rapid growth in the number of COVID-19 cases globally. From March 19 onwards, the Department of Health will issue compulsory quarantine orders to people arriving in Hong Kong who have been to any overseas countries in the past 14 days, regardless of whether they are Hong Kong residents. As the risk in all overseas countries is currently high, members of the public are strongly advised to adjust travel plans and avoid any non-essential travel outside Hong Kong. Details here.

Travel Alert on all overseas countries issued; Quarantine measures for all inbound travelers
   
World's second freest economy 

March 17, 2020 – Hong Kong ranked second in the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom, with an overall score of 89.1 and high scores of 90 or above in seven out of twelve components adopted for measuring economic freedom. A Government spokesperson expressed disappointment as the city dropped to the second position, after attaining the world’s freest economy title in the past 25 years. Despite challenges from social unrest and turbulences in the past year, the Government stressed that Hong Kong’s institutional strengths are unscathed and its underlying fundamentals remain strong and robust. Details here.

World's second freest economy 
   
Unemployment rate at 3.7%

March 17, 2020 – The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.7% (December 2019 – February 2020) from 3.4% (November 2019 – January 2020). The underemployment rate also increased to 1.5% (December 2019 – February 2020) as compared to 1.2% in the previous three-months period. Secretary for Labor and Welfare, Dr. Law Chi-kwong said, the deterioration in the labor market could be attributed to the COVID-19 epidemic as it disrupted a wide range of economic activities and dampened economic sentiment. The situation in food and beverage service activities was particularly severe, with the unemployment rate and underemployment rate soaring to 7.5% and 3.5% respectively. Dr. Law expected the labor market to face even greater pressure in the near future as the pandemic will take a toll around the world. Details here.

Unemployment rate at 3.7%
   
Multi-tech approach to support home quarantine 

March 16, 2020 –The Hong Kong SAR Government is adopting a multi-tech approach in home quarantine support. In addition to the use of electronic wristbands developed by the Logistics and Supply Chain MultiTech R&D Centre, other technology solutions are also being introduced to complement the current monitoring system and enhance its effectiveness in dealing with the evolving epidemic. This include a mobile app, by local start-up Compathnion Technology, that help analyze the change in communication signals with AI and big data to confirm that people under quarantine are staying at home. Details here

Multi-tech approach to support home quarantine 
   
HKMA’s response to US Fed’s rate cut  

March 16, 2020 -  The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) adjusted downward the Base Rate to 0.86 after the US Federal Reserve announced its adjustment for the target range of US federal funds rate by 100 basis points to 0-0.25 percent. The Chief Executive of the HKMA, Mr Eddie Yue, said HK’s market has continued to operate in an orderly manner, with the Hong Kong dollar exchange and interest rates remaining stable. "Our banking system remained robust with strong capitals and liquidity buffers," said Mr Yue. "The HKMA will continue to remain vigilant and closely monitor the markets in collaboration with other regulators. We will also maintain currency stability in Hong Kong in accordance with the Linked Exchange Rate System." Details here

HKMA’s response to US Fed’s rate cut 
   
Second batch of chartered flights for Hong Kong people in Hubei 

March 16, 2020 – A second batch of chartered flights to bring back around 700 Hong Kong residents from Xiaogan, Xianning, Huangshi, and Wuhan in Hubei Province to Hong Kong. The cost will be covered by the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Wuhan ETO will be responsible for transporting these people to the Wuhan airport. The people who take the chartered flights must be Hong Kong residents and health screenings will be conducted before boarding. Those with fever, abnormal vital signs, respiratory tract symptoms or other signs of infectious diseases will not be allowed to board the plane. Details here

Second batch of chartered flights for Hong Kong people in Hubei 
   
Launch of Retail Sector Subsidy Scheme 

March 16, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government has earmarked US$717 million (HK$5.6 billion) to aid retailers facing financial difficulties during this challenging time. The Retail Sector Subsidy Scheme, to be launched on March 23, is expected to benefit some 70,000 retailers. Each eligible retail stores will receive a one-off subsidy of US$10,256 (HK$80,000), with the first tranche of payment expected to be made in April. Some 70,000 retailers are expected to beneift from this program. Details here

Launch of Retail Sector Subsidy Scheme 
   
Travel alert issued for US, UK and Ireland; Quarantine measures for travellers from these countries

March 15, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government has issued the Red Outbound Travel Alert for the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland due to the persistent and rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 cases there. Beginning March 19, a 14-day quarantine period on all arrivals from the three countries will be imposed in an effort to stop the number of imported COVID-19 infections. For those who are already in the countries, they should heed the announcements of local authorities, always wear surgical masks and avoid visiting healthcare facilities and crowded places. Hong Kong residents are encouraged to use the online Registration of Outbound Travel Information service (www.gov.hk/roti) to register their contact details and itinerary when outside Hong Kong. Details here.

Travel alert issued for US, UK and Ireland; Quarantine measures for travellers from these countries
   
Airmail services to the United States are subject to delay

March 13, 2020 - Hong Kong Post announced that the city's airmail services are affected due to flight adjustments. Airmail services, including Speedpost, to the United States are subject to delay. Details here.

Airmail services to the United States are subject to delay
   
Government responds to US report

March 12, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government reiterated that Hong Kong has been exercising "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong' and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law, since its return to the Motherland. In a statement in response to comments about the Hong Kong SAR in the US Department of State's 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, a spokesman said safeguarding human rights and freedoms is the constitutional duty of the Government, which is firmly committed to upholding human rights and various freedoms in Hong Kong. He refuted any alleged "political prosecutions" and stressed that judicial independence is upheld in Hong Kong. Details here.

Airmail services to the United States are subject to delay
   
Hong Kong's commitment to rule of law reaffirmed

March 11, 2020 - The Rule of Law Index 2020, released by the World Justice Project, reaffirmed Hong Kong's commitment to the rule of law. According to the Index, Hong Kong maintains its No. 5 ranking in the East Asia and Pacific region and No. 16 globally. Hong Kong improved its ranking in four categories: "Absence of Corruption", "Civil Justice", "Criminal Justice", and "Order and Security". The Government reiterated that Hong Kong's solid foundation of rule of law remains strong and the fundamental rights are well protected by the Basic Law. Details here.

Hong Kong's commitment to rule of law reaffirmed
   
Red Travel Alert issued; anti-epidemic measures strengthened

March 10. 2020 - Taking into consideration the health risks arising from the COVID-19, the Hong Kong SAR Government issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert on the whole of Italy, France (Bourgogne-Franche-Comte and Grand Est), Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia), Japan (Hokkaido) and Spain (La Rioja, Madrid and Pais Vasco). Starting March 14, the Department of Health will issue quarantine orders to all people arriving in Hong Kong who have been to the aforementioned regions in the past 14 days. They will be staying in a quarantine centre. Under the red alert, the Government urges members of the public planning to travel to the aforementioned regions to adjust travel plans. In general, the public is advised to consider delaying all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong. Details here.

Red Travel Alert issued; anti-epidemic measures strengthened
   
2019 port statistics released

March 10, 2020 - Hong Kong's total port cargo throughput increased by 4.2% year-on-year to 67.8 million tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2019. Total port cargo throughput for 2019 grew by 1.8% year-on-year to 263.3 million tonnes. In the fourth quarter of 2019, the port of Hong Kong handled 4.59 million TEUs of containers, representing a 7.5% year-on-year decrease. For 2019 as a whole, the port of Hong Kong handled 18.3 million TEUs of containers, a 6.6% decrease compared with the previous year. Details here.

2019 port statistics released
   
Smart ID card renewal and replacement exercise continues

March 9, 2020 - The Immigration Department announced today that Hong Kong residents born in 1960 or 1961 should apply for new Hong Kong smart identity cards (HKIC) in person at a Smart Identity Card Replacement Centre (SIDCC) on or before April 20, 2020. In addition, the caring measure of the card replacement exercise has been extended to persons with disabilities (PwDs). PwDs, who intend to apply for a new HKIC together with eligible applicants under the measure, only need to bring along their existing smart HKIC and provide relevant documentation as proof of their PwD status upon HKIC replacement. Residents who are absent from Hong Kong during their call-up period can apply within 30 days of their return to Hong Kong. Details here.

Smart ID card renewal and replacement exercise continues
   
Smart lampposts report released

March 9, 2020 - The Multi-functional Smart Lampposts Technical Advisory Ad Hoc Committee unanimously agreed that the Hong Kong SAR Government should continue to take forward the pilot program to install multi-functional smart lampposts as they are key digital infrastructure to promote Hong Kong as a smart city and to facilitate 5G mobile network in the city. Noting that the Government has strictly complied with the requirements of Personal Data Ordinance, and public concern over potential privacy issues, the Committee recommended the use of more privacy-friendly technologies as substitutes for cameras and Bluetooth detectors, the establishment of rigorous and transparent government review system for any new smart lamppost application and engagement of independent third-party professionals to conduct regular security and policy review. Details here.

Smart lampposts report released
   
Health declaration measures strengthened

March 6, 2020 - Starting from March 8, all travelers on inbound flights arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport are subject to health declaration arrangements and will be required to complete a health declaration form. Passengers can choose to fill in and submit an electronic health declaration form on their smartphone or mobile devices. Taking into account the increasing transmission of the COVID-19 virus globally, members of the public are also advised to consider delaying all non-essential travel outside Hong Kong. Details here.

Health declaration measures strengthened
   
Foreign Currency Reserve at US$446.1 billion

March 6, 2020 - Total assets of Hong Kong foreign current reserve amounted to US$446.1 billion, as at February 29, 2020, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This represents over six times the currency in circulation or about 46 per cenr of Hong Kong dollar M3. Details here.

Foreign Currency Reserve at US$446.1 billion
   
Chartered flights for Hong Kong people in Hubei returned safely

March 5, 2020 - A total of 469 Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei Province returned to Hong Kong safely through four chartered flights arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government in the past two days (March 4 and 5). Upon arrival in Hong Kong, all returnees were taken to the quarantine centre in Chun Yeung Estate by pre-arranged coaches to undergo 14 days of quarantine observation. The HKSAR Government will continue to maintain close liaison with the Hubei Provincial Government and discuss further plans of bringing back Hong Kong residents in other parts of the Province. Details here.

Chartered flights for Hong Kong people in Hubei returned safely
   
Promoting exchanges and collaboration in Pittsburgh

March 4, 2020 - During her two day (Mar 3-4) visit to Pittsburgh, Director of HKETONY Joanne Chu met with government officials, business executives and academics, highlighting the unique advantages and opportunities that Hong Kong offers for US companies interested in expanding their business in Asia. She also gave an update on the latest developments in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong SAR Government's efforts to promote innovation & technology development in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Details here.

Promoting exchanges and collaboration in Pittsburgh
   
First batch of Hong Kong residents in Hubei province arrive safely

March 4, 2020 - The first two chartered flights carrying 244 Hong Kong residents stranded in Hubei Province landed in Hong Kong on March 4. The flights were arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government, with Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip and the Director of Immigration Erick Tsang leading the Hong Kong team this morning to the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport to coordinate the mission. Members of the Hong Kong team include staff from the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the Immigration Department, the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority. Upon arrival, the returnees were taken to the quarantine center in Chun Yeung Estate to undergo 14 days of quarantine observation. The HKSAR team will depart for Wuhan on March 5 morning to bring back another batch of about 240 Hong Kong people home. Details here.

First batch of Hong Kong residents in Hubei province arrive safely
   
HKMA lowers base rate to 1.5%

March 4, 2020 - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) today lowered the base rate to 1.5%. The adjustment, made according to a pre-set formula, followed a 50-basis point downward shift in the target range for the US federal funds rate on March 3. HKMA's Chief Executive Eddie Yue said: “These actions indicate that the US Fed would proactively use its monetary policy to mitigate possible economic risks posed by the coronavirus. However, further developments of the coronavirus are still very uncertain and financial markets will continue to see considerable volatility. Investors should manage their risks prudently.” The base rate is the interest rate forming the foundation upon which discount rates for repurchase transactions through the discount window are computed. It is currently set at either 50 basis points above the lower end of the prevailing target range for the US federal funds rate or the average of the five-day moving averages of the overnight and one-month Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rates, whichever is higher. Details here.

HKMA lowers base rate to 1.5%
   
Funding for I&T programs extended

March 3, 2020 - Effective March 9, the funding scopes of the Researcher Programme and the Postdoctoral Hub will be extended to all technology companies conducting or planning to conduct R&D activities in Hong Kong. With the enhancements, the programs will allow more local technology companies to engage more research staff, create more local R&D jobs, and enlarge the pool of I&T talent in Hong Kong. Details here.

Funding for I&T programs extended
   
Chartered flights for Hong Kong people in Hubei

March 3, 2020 - A total of 533 Hong Kong residents in Hubei province will return to Hong Kong in batches by four chartered flights arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government in the coming two days (Mar 4 and 5). They include 440 residents in Wuhan and 93 from 10 other cities in the province. The 93 people include pregnant women, candidates for the upcoming university entrance examination and those who need medical treatment in Hong Kong. Secretary for Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip said the Government started planning to bring residents back to Hong Kong upon receiving their requests for assistance. "We have to consider the right moment to do so," he said, taking into account the epidemic situation in the Mainland and the situation in Hong Kong. Details here.

Chartered flights for Hong Kong people in Hubei
   
Gradual resumption of public services

March 2, 2020 - Government bureaux/departments gradually resumed more public services today in a smooth and orderly manner. Secretaries of Department and Directors of Bureau visited the departments under their respective purviews to learn more about the implementation of the targeted measures to reduce social contact and measures for infection control to protect the health of their staff and members of the public. These include the introduction of 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. Colleagues are also arranged to have staggered lunch hours. The Government has also implemented various infection control measures at government buildings and offices to reduce the risk of infection and the spread of the virus. These measures include enhancing the cleansing of public facilities, such as lifts and escalators, checking the body temperature of persons entering government buildings and offices, providing alcohol hand sanitizer and sanitizing mats, etc. Details here.

Gradual resumption of public services
   
Crime rises in 2019

March 2, 2020 - A total of 59,225 cases of crimes were reported in 2019, a 9.2% year-on-year increase, according to the statistics released by the Hong Kong Police. 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. Details here.

Crime rise in 2019
   
Community urged to stay united

March 1, 2020 - A spokesman for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government condemned rioters' acts of vandalism in Mong Kok, 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.” Details here.

Community urged to stay united
   
January retail sales drop 21.4%

March 2, 2020 - January's value of total retail sales, provisionally estimated at US$4.8 billion, decreased by 21.4% year-on-year. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales decreased 23% 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. Details here.

January retail sales drop 21.4%
   
Surplus recorded in January

February 28, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today its financial results in the past 10 months that ended on January 31, 2020. The fiscal reserves stood at US$153.3 billion as of January 31,2020. There was a surplus of US$9.6 billion in the month of January, hence bringing a cumulative year-to-date surplus of US$3.2 billion after receipt of net proceeds from issuance of green bonds under the Government Green Bond Programme (US$1 billion) and repayment of institutional notes (US$192 million). Details here.

   
Exchange Fund at US$537.6 billion

February 28, 2020 - Total assets of Hong Kong's Exchange Fund amounted to US$537.6 billion, as at January 31, 2020, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. This is US$8.3 billion lower than that of December 2019. Hong Kong dollar assets decreased by US$6 billion and foreign currency assets decreased by US$2.3 billion. The Currency Board Account showed that the Monetary Base was US$216.5 billion at the end of January 2020. Backing Assets reached US$240.2 billion. Details here.

Exchange Fund at US$537.6 billion
   
Travel alert issued for Italy and Iran

February 28, 2020 - In light of the health risks arising from the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy and Iran, the Hong Kong SAR Government issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert on Iran and for three regions in Italy: Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto. Under the red alert, those who plan to travel to the Italian regions concerned and Iran are urged to adjust travel plans and avoid non-essential travel. Starting March 1, the Department of Health will begin compulsory quarantine orders on all people arriving Hong Kong who have been to the aforementioned places in the past 14 days. The Centre for Health Protection will also enforce stricter reporting criteria to enhance surveillance of suspected cases. The public are reminded that they should be aware of the potential health risk due to outbound travel arrangements. Details here.

Travel alert issued for Italy and Iran
   
Public services to resume in a safe and orderly manner

February 27, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government will implement targeted measures to reduce social contact and infection control measures and gradually resume more public services from March 2 in an orderly manner. The Government said while fighting the epidemic remains its top priority, taking into account the need for the functioning of society, bureaus or departments will provide more public services from March 2. The Government's ultimate goal is to resume full public services when conditions permit. Details here.

Public services to resume in a safe and orderly manner
   
Assistance for Hong Kong cruise passengers continues

February 27, 2020 - Hong Kong's Immigration Department and the Department of Health (DH) have reinforced their staff to Japan to continue to assist the Hong Kong passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are still in Japan, including 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. There are currently 23 immigration officers in Japan and a DH medical team has also arrived there to follow up with the conditions and needs of the confirmed Hong Kong patients who are still in Japan, providing them with appropriate assistance. The Hong Kong SAR Government had arranged three chartered flights to bring 193 Hong Kong residents back home during the period between Feb 19 - 23. Separately, another 25 Hong Kong residents have returned Hong Kong on their own by other flights. As at Feb 26, a total of 218 Hong Kong passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship are under quarantine. Among them, seven have subsequently been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and sent to hospitals for isolation and treatment. Details here.

Assistance for Hong Kong cruise passengers continues
   
2020-21 Budget promotes economic diversification

February 26, 2020 - Adopting an expansionary fiscal stance, Financial Secretary Paul Chan today announced 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. The economy contracted 1.2% in 2019. The full-year economic growth forecast for 2020 is between -1.5% and 0.5%.

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. "These proposals also complement the initiatives set out under the recently established HK$30 billion Anti-epidemic Fund," she said. "Taken together, this substantial funding commitment will provide comprehensive support for people from all walks of life."

2020-21 Budget promotes economic diversification
 
2020-21 Budget promotes economic diversification
   
Hong Kong people in Wuhan to be flown back

February 26, 2020 - 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 today. The cost of the flights will be borne by the Government, and the Wuhan 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 Economic & Trade Office. 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. Details here.

Hong Kong people in Wuhan to be flown back
   
Decrease in January's exports

February 25, 2020 - Hong Kong's 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 (HK$269.4 billion), after a year-on-year increase of 3.3% in December 2019. The value of imports of goods decreased to US$38.4 billion (HK$300.0 billion), after a year-on-year decrease of 1.9% in December 2019. A visible trade deficit of US$3.9 billion (HK$30.6 billion), equivalent to 10.2% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded in January 2020. Details here.

Decrease in January's exports
   
Port health measures strengthened

February 25, 2020 - Following the Hong Kong SAR Government’s announcement (Feb 24) on the Red Outbound Travel Alert issued on Korea and restriction imposed on non-Hong Kong residents arriving from Korea from entering Hong Kong, effective 6:00 AM on Feb 25, the Department of Health has immediately strengthened port health and quarantine measures on inbound travellers arriving from Korea. The measures are implemented in response to the latest situation of COVID-19 in Korea. Details here.

Port health measures strengthened
   
Flight arrangement for Hong Kong residents in Hubei

February 24, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government has been liaising with the relevant Mainland authorities with the aim to bring back, in batches and as soon as possible, Hong Kong people in Hubei, especially groups of special needs. Active discussions are also ongoing with the relevant government departments and public health experts to draw up a feasible and safe plan to bring them back that will cause minimal public health risk in Hong Kong. Details here.

Flight arrangement for Hong Kong residents in Hubei
   
Red Outbound Travel Alert issued on Korea

February 24, 2020 - In view of the health risks arising from the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in Korea, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government issued a Red Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) on the country, urging the public planning to travel to Korea to adjust travel plans and avoid non-essential travel. Hong Kong residents are encouraged to use the online Registration of Outbound Travel Information service (www.gov.hk/roti) to register their contact details and itinerary when outside Hong Kong. The information provided allows the DH and AHU of the Immigration Department to disseminate practical information to them through appropriate means, including SMS on mobile phones, on a timely basis when necessary. Details here.

Red Outbound Travel Alert issued on Korea
   
Third chartered flight arrives from Japan

February 23, 2020 - The third chartered flight arranged by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government to bring back the Hong Kong residents on board the Diamond Princess cruise arrived in Hong Kong with five Hong Kong passengers on board. They will be under quarantine for 14 days, along with the 188 Hong Kong residents on the previous two chartered flights and 20 passengers who came back on their own by other flights. Up to February 22, there were a total of 634 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise, of which 68 were Hong Kong residents They are under treatment in Japan. A number of Immigration Department officers are staying in Japan to continue to provide assistance to the Hong Kong residents who are receiving medical treatment there. Details here.

Third chartered flight arrives from Japan
   
Anti-epidemic funding welcomed

February 21, 2020 - Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, welcomed the passage of the funding application for the Anti-epidemic Fund by the Legislative Council (LegCo) Finance Committee (Feb 21). Mrs Lam conveyed her heartfelt thanks to LegCo Members for their support and approval of the funding application for the HK$30 billion (US$3.8 billion) Anti-epidemic Fund to achieve the objective of fighting the COVID-19 virus. “The Government will continue to assess the impact of the epidemic on society and listen to comments from all sectors, while introducing more support measures as necessary," she said. Details here.

Anti-epidemic funding welcomed
   
Dissemination of anti-epidemic information enhanced

February 21, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government launched (Feb 21) a Telegram channel, "Hong Kong Anti-epidemic Information Channel" (t.me/HKFIGHTCOVID19), to disseminate the Government’s information on COVID-19 in a more direct and speedy way. In addition, the Government has, since early February, made use of various online platforms to centrally disseminate anti-epidemic information, including an Interactive Map Dashboard (chp-dashboard.geodata.gov.hk/covid-19/en.html) and a thematic website (www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/index.html), with a view to updating the public on the relevant information. Details here.

Dissemination of anti-epidemic information enhanced
   
Hongkong Post continues to accord priority for surgical masks delivery

February 21, 2020 - Hongkong Post will continue to uphold the principle of according top priority for the delivery of surgical masks, committing to keeping its delivery service in order, with the aim of delivering all inbound items of surgical masks to the hands of the public within the week of Feb 24 - Mar 1. In a statement (Feb 21), Hongkong Post said it would also continue with the practice of calling recipients prior to delivery to ascertain their choice for door delivery or collection from post office. Hongkong Post has all along been prioritizing the handling of Speedpost items containing surgical masks. It is estimated that more than 120,000 such items would have been delivered since after the Lunar Year through this weekend. Details here.

Hongkong Post continues to accord priority for surgical masks delivery
   
First batch of Hong Kong cruise passengers return safely

February 20, 2020 - A total of 106 Hong Kong residents on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, including the six persons who had completed quarantine at a facility in Saitama Prefecture and were permitted to leave Japan, arrived in Hong Kong from Tokyo safely (Feb 20) on a chartered flight arranged by the Hong Kong SAR Government. Before disembarkation from the plane, staff of the Port Health Division briefed them about the quarantine arrangements and checked their body temperature. All passengers were taken to the quarantine center in Chun Yeung Estate by pre-arranged coaches to undergo 14 days of quarantine observation. People who have been arranged to stay at quarantine centers, including these passengers returning Hong Kong, have not developed any symptoms and are not confirmed or suspected infected patients. Details here.

First batch of Hong Kong cruise passengers return safely
   
Vigilant monitoring of COVID-19 outbreak

February 20, 2020 - Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Hong Kong SAR Government, guided by three key principles - responding promptly, staying alert to the situation and working in an open and transparent manner, has responded comprehensively to the situation, with decisive and appropriate measures in accordance with the advice and opinions of experts. These include introducing specific measures in the areas of health surveillance, compulsory quarantine, isolation treatment, health declaration, exit screening, reducing the flow of people between Hong Kong and the Mainland, enhancing 'social distancing' locally, supporting front-line healthcare staff and provision of sufficient personal protective equipment. The Government will continue to monitor closely the development. Subject to expert advice and the actual situation in Hong Kong, the Government will not hesitate to introduce necessary measures to suit the situation. In face of the severe epidemic situation, the Government calls on the community to act in concert, put aside differences and win the battle against the epidemic for Hong Kong. Details here.

Vigilant monitoring of COVID-19 outbreak
   
January's inflation rose 1.4%

February 20, 2020 - Overall consumer prices for January rose by 1.4% year-on-year, smaller than the corresponding increase (2.9%) in December 2019. Netting out the effects of all Government’s one-off relief measures, the year-on-year rate of increase in the Composite CPI (i.e. the underlying inflation rate) in January 2020 was 3.7%, larger than that in December 2019 (2.9%). The increase was mainly due to the enlarged increases in the charges for package tours and prices of pork around the Lunar New Year. Looking ahead, overall inflationary pressures will likely be contained in the near term, given the mild external price pressures and subdued local economic conditions. While the threat of the novel coronavirus infection may cause prices of certain daily necessities to rise, any disruption should only be temporary. Details here.

January's inflation rose 1.4%
   
December's exports of goods grew 3.8%

February 18, 2020 - The volume of Hong Kong's total exports of goods in December grew 3.8% year-on-year while the volume of imports of goods fell by 2.0% (Feb 18). Comparing 2019 with 2018, the volume of Hong Kong’s total exports of goods and imports of goods decreased by 5.0% and 7.6% respectively. Details here.

December's exports of goods grew 3.8%
   
Unemployment rate rises to 3.4%

February 18, 2020 - Hong Kong's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.4% in November 2019 - January 2020 from 3.3% in October - December 2019 (Feb 18). The underemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.2% in the two periods. The labor market slackened further as economic conditions stayed weak, with the employment situation of the consumption- and tourism-related sectors (viz. retail, accommodation and food services sectors) remaining difficult. Details here.

Unemployment rate rises to 3.4%
   
Chartered flights arranged for cruise passengers

February 17, 2020 - Hong Kong SAR Government has arranged two chartered flights to bring home Hong Kong residents quarantined for the novel coronavirus onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Secretary for Security John Lee said (Feb 17) the two flights will leave Japan on Feb 19 and arrive in Hong Kong the following day. Hong Kong residents can board the flights once Japan authorities clear their blood tests. They will be placed under quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Hong Kong. Each chartered flight has more than 400 seats which are enough to cater for the some 350 Hong Kong people on the cruise, including 260 Hong Kong permanent residents, and 90 foreign passport holders. Details here.

Chartered flights arranged for cruise passengers
   
Hongkong Post accords priority for surgical mask parcels

February 15, 2020 - Hongkong Post has accorded top priority to Speedpost items containing surgical masks on the principle of “surgical masks first”, with over 40,000 boxes of surgical masks items delivered in the past week (Feb 10-15). Hongkong Post has made special arrangements by re-deploying manpower from other divisions to speed up the processing of Speedpost boxes, along with Sunday deliveries and full resumption of daily mail delivery service so that parcels containing surgical masks can reach the hands of the recipients as soon as possible. Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung expressed his warm appreciation (Feb 17) to Hongkong Post for addressing the community’s pressing needs during this emergency period. Details here.

Hongkong Post accords priority for surgical mask parcels
   
US$3.2 billion fund to fight viral outbreak

February 14, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government will set up a HK$25 billion (US$3.2 billion) fund to help local residents and businesses tide over the coronavirus situation. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the initiative is a commitment to the people of Hong Kong. The Chief Executive stressed that Hong Kong was facing an almost unprecedented situation that was still evolving. "This time, the Government has taken some bold and decisive steps to help different sectors and to ensure that we can continue to undertake all the infection control measures that have been put in place," she said. Vowing that the Government would continue to work very hard based on its good public health experience, the expertise of its advisory panel, the dedication of colleagues, as well as the amount of resources it was prepared to put into the fight against the disease, Mrs Lam added that the measures were justified and took into account feedback from the public, various sectors and Legislative Council members. Details here.

US$3.2 billion fund to fight viral outbreak
   
Quarantine surveillance enhanced

February 12, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government is enhancing surveillance (Feb 12) of people under the compulsory quarantine orders issued by the Department of Health (DH).The DH and Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) will continue to make surprise phone calls and video calls and request real-time locations to the persons under quarantine. If those under quarantine fail to share their real-time locations via their mobile devices, they will be immediately requested to wear electronic wristbands so that the DH can monitor them. The Government is also strengthening manpower to assist the DH and the OGCIO in this joint effort to combat the novel coronavirus. The Government reiterated the importance of self-discipline by people under quarantine, urging them to strictly comply with the quarantine orders. Details here.

Quarantine surveillance enhanced
   
Postal services from the United States normal

February 12, 2020 - Hongkong Post announced (Feb 12) that, as advised by the United States Postal Service (USPS), postal services originating from the United States to Hong Kong remain normal, while priority mail express international service (i.e. Speedpost) items for Hong Kong may be subject to delay due to widespread flight cancellations. In addition, mail transiting the USPS from other regions to Hong Kong have been suspended. Details here.

   
Cooperation urged in fight against virus

February 11, 2020 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam has called on Hong Kong citizens to fully cooperate and participate in the fight against the novel coronavirus by staying at home as much as possible, particularly those subject to the Government’s compulsory quarantine order. Mrs Lam made the appeal Tuesday (Feb 11), after some residents were found to have breached their 14-day quarantine. “In order to fight this virus, Hong Kong needs the full cooperation and active participation of every member of society. This is a time for social cohesion. This is a time for every one of us to display civic responsibility," she said. Anyone who breaches the compulsory quarantine is subject to a fine of US$3,205 and imprisonment for six months. The Hong Kong SAR Government was providing quarantined residents with as much support as possible. The Chief Executive also reiterated the Government’s appeal for the public to avoid some social interactions and activities to prevent a community-wide outbreak of novel coronavirus infection. Details here.

Cooperation urged in fight against virus
   
Multi-pronged approach to procure surgical masks

February 10, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government (Feb 10) has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to procure surgical masks globally through different channels and means. The Government (is prioritizing the distribution of surgical masks in accordance with the risk level, with priority given to healthcare workers and personnel providing care services; and personnel who provide essential services and who are required to have contact with the public at work. Details here.

Multi-pronged approach to procure surgical masks
   
Cruise quarantine completed

February 9, 2020 - The Centre for Health Protection said (Feb 9) all those on board the World Dream cruise ship docked in Hong Kong no longer need to be under surveillance for the novel coronavirus and may disembark, following negative results for the novel coronavirus for all 1,800 crewmembers. Some Mainland travellers who had earlier taken the cruise were confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus, so tests were conducted on all 1,800 crewmembers to safeguard the current passengers on board. Details here.

Cruise quarantine completed
   
Some overseas airmail services subject to delay

February 7, 2020 - Due to flight adjustments of some airlines, airmail services from Hong Kong to a number of destinations, including the United States of America, United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil and Chile may be subject to delay, according to the Hongkong Post (Feb 7). Details here.

Some overseas airmail services subject to delay
   
Mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving from Mainland

February 5, 2020 - Effective Feb 8, Hong Kong will require all travelers from the Mainland to be placed on mandatory quarantine for 14 days. The measure will further reduce cross-boundary flow of people between Hong Kong and the Mainland, thereby reducing the risk of transmission and spread of the disease in the community. In addition, immigration services at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and the Ocean Terminal have also been suspended effective immediately. Refuting rumors, the Hong Kong SAR Government stressed that freight services between the Mainland and Hong Kong will not be affected. The supply of food products remains normal and there is no shortage of food in the city. Details here.

Mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving from Mainland
   
December retail sales down

February 4, 2020 - December's value of total retail sales, provisionally estimated at US$4.6 billion, fell 19.4% year-on-year. For 2019 as a whole, the value of total retail sales was provisionally estimated at US$55.2 billion, down 11.1% in value and 12.3% in volume compared with 2018. A Hong Kong SAR Government spokesman said that retail sales continued to decline sharply in December 2019, as the impact of the local social incidents on consumption- and tourism-related activities remained severe. The business environment for retail trade has become even more difficult recently, with the threat of the novel coronavirus infection heavily weighing on inbound tourism and local consumption sentiment. Details here.

December retail sales down
   
Government defends response to disease

February 4, 2020 - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam refuted (Feb 4) allegations claiming that the Hong Kong SAR Government has not adequately addressed public health concerns arising from the novel coronavirus situation and has put politics above public health. Mrs Lam said that since Jan 25, the Government has made four announcements to introduce measures to respond to the disease’s evolving situation. “Our public health strategy is to ensure that we could speedily respond to the changing situation and implement as quickly as possible the necessary response measures," she said. “I certainly would not agree with the allegation that we are not addressing this public health concern adequately, and certainly I don’t agree with the allegation that we are putting politics above public health. This is a public health situation and we are assisted by our experts, both external and in-house, to tackle this very important situation.” Mrs Lam added that all the measures that has been adopted are focused on the one single objective to minimise and reduce very significantly cross-border passenger traffic so as to reduce the chances of infection. Details here.

Government defends response to disease
   
US-bound counterfeit goods seized

February 4, 2020 - Approximately 10,000 items of suspected counterfeit goods, with an estimated market value of US$141,025 were seized by Hong Kong Customs during a targeted operation in January to combat cross-boundary counterfeiting activities involving goods destined for the United State. Through intelligence exchanges with the US customs authorities, Hong Kong Customs took enforcement action in January and stepped up inspection against suspicious express consignments destined for the United States. Details here.

US-bound counterfeit goods seized
   
Technology Talent Admission Scheme enhanced

January 30, 2020 - Enhanced measures to the Technology Talent Admission Scheme (TechTAS) were announced (Jan 30), allowing more eligible companies to apply. When it was inaugurated, TechTAS covered tenants and incubatees of the Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation and Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company which conducted research and development (R&D) activities in seven technology areas (artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, financial technologies, material science and robotics. With the new enhancements, TechTAS covers six more technology areas including 5G communications, digital entertainment, green technology, integrated circuit design, the Internet of Things and microelectronics. The enhancements aim to contribute to Hong Kong’s innovation and technology development by expediting admission of technology talent from around the world to undertake R&D work in the city. Details here.

Technology Talent Admission Scheme enhanced
   
Government increases supply of surgical masks

January 30, 2020 - In response to widespread public concern and anxiety about the supply of surgical masks in Hong Kong, a Hong Kong SAR Government spokesman said (Jan 30) that owing to the spread of disease which gives rise to keen global demand, the supply of surgical masks is expected to remain tight in the short term. The spokesman stressed that the Government has been working proactively to increase the overall supply of surgical masks with a multi-pronged approach. As the supply of surgical masks is tight in the short term, experts have advised the Government to continue the measures to minimize contacts among people and take a risk-based approach by prioritizing the distribution of surgical masks to the personnel in need, in particular healthcare workers. According to the recommendations of the Centre for Health Protection, although surgical masks can effectively prevent the spread of disease, the public should also pay attention to personal hygiene in addition to wearing surgical masks. Details here.

Government increases supply of surgical masks
   
December's exports grew 3.3%

January 30, 2020 - Hong Kong's total exports of goods in December grew by 3.3%, while the value of imports of goods decreased by 1.9% over a year earlier. The value of total exports reached US$45 billion while the value of imports of goods was US$49.2 billion. A visible trade deficit of US$416 million, equivalent to 8.5% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded in December 2019. For 2019 as a whole, the value of total exports of goods dropped by 4.1% over 2018. Concurrently, the value of imports of goods decreased by 6.5%. A visible trade deficit of US$54.7 billion, equivalent to 9.7% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded in 2019. Details here.

December's exports grew 3.3%
   
Enhanced health measures announced

January 29, 2020 - Taking into account the latest situation, the Hong Kong SAR Government is implementing (Jan 28) more disease prevention and control measures. They include reducing the flow of people between the Mainland and Hong Kong as well as contacts among members of the public, with a view to lowering the chance of the disease being imported into Hong Kong and spreading in the community. The issuance of new permits under the Individual Visits Scheme to Hong Kong has been suspended until further notice. And effective Jan 30, flights, rail and cross-boundary bus services between Hong Kong and the Mainland, will be reduced or suspended. The Government is also urging HK residents to return from the Mainland as soon as possible. All persons returning from the Mainland are advised to stay home for 14 days upon their return as far as possible. Details here.

Enhanced health measures announced
   
Hong Kong markets will trade as normal on January 29

January 28, 2020 - The stocks, futures and derivatives markets of Hong Kong will trade as normal on Jan 29, after the Chinese New Year holiday. In view of the latest situation of the novel coronavirus infection in Hong Kong, the Financial Secretary met with financial regulators and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (Jan 28). The Financial Secretary was briefed on the contingency arrangements, preparedness and coordination of the relevant institutions for market open on Jan 29. The Financial Secretary appealed to financial organisations to make special work arrangements for their employees as far as practicable, so as to work together to reduce the risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus in the community. Details here.

Hong Kong markets will trade as normal on January 29
   
Government staff to work from home

January 28, 2020 - Hong Kong SAR Government employees, except for staff of departments providing emergency and essential public services, will work at home from January 29 to February 2. The special work arrangement was announced to reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus’ spread in the community. The Government will review the situation before February 2, when the measure tentatively ends. The Government has also appealed to private sector organisations to make similar arrangements as far as practicable. Details here.

Government staff to work from home
   
New measures rolled out to tackle novel coronavirus

January 26, 2020 - In an all-out effort to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus in the city, the Hong Kong SAR Government has rolled out a range of measures after issuing the highest “emergency” response level (Jan 25). These include enhancing the mechanism and organization structure to tackle the disease, strengthening immigration control, minimizing risks of virus infection and spreading in local community, enhancing personal hygiene of the public, improving anti-epidemic facilities and services, and allocating sufficient resources for the measures. Flight and high-speed train services between Hong Kong and Wuhan are suspended indefinitely. Effective Jan 27, and until further notice, Hong Kong will impose restrictions on all Hubei Province residents and people, except for Hong Kong residents, who visited the province in the past 14 days from entering the city. Explaining that the Government has taken actions in a very systematic matter based on scientific evidence and advice from experts, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government will closely monitor the development of the situation and seek expert advice. “We will not hesitate to introduce more measures when necessary to protect the health of the citizens. I appeal to the public to work together with the HKSAR Government in fighting the disease," she said. Details here.

New measures rolled out to tackle novel coronavirus
   
Chief Executive concludes visit to Davos

January 24, 2020 - Concluding her three-day visit in Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF), Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she was deeply encouraged to note that all the people she met had a very positive attitude towards Hong Kong and were pleased to continue to enhance their connections with the city in all relevant aspects. While in Davos, Mrs Lam spoke at various WEF events and activities, as well as bilateral meetings with more than 10 political and business leaders and senior members of the media, in which she gave updates on Hong Kong’s situation. At the Hong Kong Night (Jan 23) event, Mrs Lam led the TeamHK delegation to promote the city’s strengths and advantages to about 200 global political, business and media leaders. During a Q&A session, Mrs Lam stressed that the Hong Kong SAR Government will safeguard Hong Kong’s fundamentals, including the rule of law, adding that she is fully confident of the city’s future. The event also included three panel discussions, with topics covering the global capital market, trade and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, during which relevant experts shared their insights on Hong Kong’s future development opportunities. Details here.

Chief Executive concludes visit to Davos Chief Executive concludes visit to Davos
   
Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed

January 24, 2020 - Hong Kong and Mexico signed an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) in Davos, Switzerland (Jan 23) to strengthen mutual investment protection. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the agreement allows investors of the two parties to enjoy corresponding protection of their investments in the host economies, and thus enhance investors’ confidence in making investments abroad. The IPPA with Mexico is the fourth such agreement that this term of the Hong Kong SAR Government has signed since taking office in July 2017. Details here.

Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed
   
Second best year for Exchange Fund

January 23, 2020 - The Exchange Fund recorded its second highest-ever investment income of HK$247.2 billion (US$31.6 billion) last year, with an investment return of 6.2%, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) (Jan 23). Chief Executive of HKMA Eddie Yue said despite the slowdown of global economic growth and US-China trade tensions last year, accommodative monetary policies by major central banks lent support to the equity and bond markets. Details here.

Second best year for Exchange Fund
   
Chief Executive attends WEF Annual Meeting

January 22, 2020 - Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam, leading a Hong Kong delegation, arrived in Davos, Switzerland (Jan 21) to start her three-day visit to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting. She attended a WEF session with an address by the Vice Premier of the State Council, Mr Han Zheng, and met with the Prime Minister of Singapore and the Prime Minister of Luxembourg to brief them on the latest situation in Hong Kong. She said Hong Kong experienced an unprecedented challenge last year, but with its solid foundation, she expressed confidence that the city is capable of overcoming the current difficulties. She emphasized that the Hong Kong SAR Government has all along been adhering to three principles in handling the social unrest, namely upholding the "One Country, Two Systems" principle and the Basic Law, respecting and safeguarding the rule of law and protecting Hong Kong's institutional strengths. At the WEF session "Expanding Asia's Technology Leadership", Mrs Lam pointed out that Hong Kong, as an international financial center, can also provide plenty of capital for I&T development in Asia, which is emerging as an important I&T region. Mrs Lam also gave interviews to two international media organisations separately. Details here.

Chief Executive attends WEF Annual Meeting
   
Greater travel convenience for HKSAR passport holders

January 22, 2020 - Kenya will grant entry visas upon arrival to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport holders and stay in the country for up to three months, according to the Immigration Department (Jan 22). HKSAR passport holders may also apply for an online e-visa for Kenya. Noting that Kenya is along the Belt & Road, the department said under the Belt & Road Initiative, the visa-on-arrival arrangement would bring greater travel convenience to HKSAR passport holders visiting Kenya and strengthen the tourism, cultural and economic ties between the two places. This arrangement brings to 168 the number of countries and territories that grant visa-free access or visa-on-arrival to HKSAR passport holders. Details here.

Greater travel convenience for HKSAR passport holders
   
Government disagrees with Moody’s rating

January 21, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government strongly disagrees (Jan 21) with Moody’s decision to downgrade Hong Kong’s long-term issuer rating to “Aa3” from “Aa2”, while changing the credit outlook to “stable” from “negative”. A Government spokesman said, “Moody’s rating falls way out of line with Hong Kong’s sound credit fundamentals.” These included strong confidence in the Linked Exchange Rate System, strong and sound liquidity of banks, thriving capital markets, buttressed by the city’s institutional strengths such as the rule of law; an independent judiciary; a robust supervisory regime; free flows of capital, talent, goods and information; and a simple and low tax regime. Details here.

Government disagrees with Moody’s rating
   
Record number of firms invest in HK

January 21, 2020 - Invest Hong Kong assisted 487 overseas and Mainland companies to set up or expand in Hong Kong last year, up 11.7% year-on-year, setting a new record.The number of fintech companies and start-ups saw the strongest growth. The total number of jobs thereby created (6 009) rose by 14.1% over the previous year's figure. "2019 was another record year for InvestHK in terms of the number of companies assisted and the number of jobs created by those companies. Hong Kong continues to attract overseas and Mainland investors because of its core advantages and emerging business opportunities, especially in the light of the latest developments in the Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative," said InvestHK's Director-General of Investment Promotion Stephen Phillips. Details here.

Record number of firms invest in HK
   
December inflation grew 2.9%

January 21, 2020 - December's overall consumer prices rose 2.9% year-on-year (Jan 21). Netting out the effects of the Government's one-off relief measures, the underlying inflation rate for the month was also 2.9%, unchanged from last November. Year-on-year price increases were recorded for food, miscellaneous goods, housing, meals bought away from home, miscellaneous services and transport. Year-on-year decreases were recorded for electricity, gas and water, clothing and footwear, durable goods as well as alcoholic drinks and tobacco. The Government said the underlying consumer price inflation rate was stable and price pressures on most major Consumer Price Index components stayed modest or moderate. Details here.

December inflation grew 2.9%
   
Unemployment rate grows to 3.3%

January 20, 2020 - Unemployment rate for the October – December period rose to a provisional 3.3% from 3.2% in the September – November period. The underemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.2% in the two periods. Secretary for Labour & Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said the labor market slackened further as economic conditions stayed weak. The unemployment rate of the consumption and tourism-related segment of retail, accommodation and food services sectors stayed at a three-year high of 5.2%. “The labour market will be subject to even more pressure in the near term if the overall economy stays weak. The Government will monitor the developments closely,” Dr Law added. Details here.

Unemployment rate grows to 3.3%
   
Core events of StartmeupHK Festival 2020 announced

Lifestyle and retail tech, smart city, artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, e-sports, environment and sustainability are some of the key themes of the 5th edition of the StartmeupHK Festival (Feb 10 - 15). The event will also see the finals of the global Jumpstarter and WHub start-up pitching competitions. An international mix of more than 300 speakers from 54 countries or territories will discuss their experience and know-how in a range of panel sessions, fireside chats, keynotes and presentations. The festival attendance is set to exceed 17,000 delegates. Details here:

Core events of StartmeupHK Festival 2020 announced
   
Government regrets call for sanctions

January 19, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government has expressed (Jan 20) deep regret that some participants of a public meeting called on foreign governments to intervene in Hong Kong’s affairs and to impose sanctions. In a statement, the Government said foreign governments, legislatures or organizations have absolutely no role in matters relating to Hong Kong’s constitutional development and should not express any opinion or attempt to influence or interfere in the discussions of related matters in Hong Kong. Understanding the aspiration of the community for universal suffrage, the Hong Kong SAR Government has all along been taking forward constitutional development in accordance with the Basic Law and the relevant Interpretation and Decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Since the return to the Motherland, the HKSAR has made three attempts to take forward constitutional reform – in 2005, 2012 and 2015. In 2012, membership of the Election Committee was increased from 800 to 1,200, while that of the LegCo was increased from 60 to 70. This is a milestone in the development of democracy in Hong Kong. For the 2020 Legislative Council General Election, the five seats in the District Council (Second) Functional Constituency are expected to be returned by around four million registered voters. Details here.

Government regrets call for sanctions
   
Business expectations survey unveiled

January 17, 2020 - Businesses in Hong Kong expecting their business situation to be worse (31%) in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, compared with the previous quarter (Q4 2019), is higher than those expecting it to be better (9%), according to the latest Quarterly Business Tendency Survey. A Hong Kong SAR Government spokesman cautioned that the results of the survey should be interpreted with care. "In this type of survey on expectations, the views collected in the survey are affected by the events in the community occurring around the time of enumeration, and it is difficult to establish precisely the extent to which respondents' perception of the future accords with the underlying trends," he said. Details here.

Business expectations survey unveiled
   
Chief Executive to attend World Economic Forum

January 16, 2020 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam will lead a top-level delegation to this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos (Jan 21 - 25) to remind global political, business and media leaders that Hong Kong's enduring strengths and advantages continue to serve it well. Mrs Lam said she understood the global interest in Hong Kong and would take the opportunity to engage as many Davos attendees as possible to impress upon them the city’s strengths and advantages.. “Much has happened in Hong Kong over the past year, and challenges remain. But our fundamentals remain strong and our future remains bright,” Mrs Lam said. “We are a free and open society and a highly competitive international business and financial hub." The Chief Executive said she would stress the resilience and flexibility of Hong Kong and its people. Details here.

Chief Executive to attend World Economic Forum
   
November's exports of goods fell 1.3%

January 16, 2020 - The volume of Hong Kong’s total goods exports (Jan 16) in November 2019 decreased 1.3% year-on-year while the volume of goods imports dropped 5.9% compared to the same period last year. Goods exports prices dipped 0.2% while those of goods imports increased 0.1%.Comparing the first 11 months of 2019 with the same period in 2018, the volume of goods exports dropped 5.8%, while that of goods imports fell 8.1%. Both prices of goods exports and imports increased 1.3% in the same period. Details here.

November's exports of goods fell 1.3%
   
Government responds to NGO report

January 15, 2020 - The "one country, two systems" principle has been fully and successfully implemented in Hong Kong, said a Hong Kong SAR (HKSAR) Government spokesman (Jan 15), adding that the HKSAR Government will continue to implement the "one country, two systems" principle resolutely in accordance with the Basic Law. Responding to parts of a report related to Hong Kong issued by Human Rights Watch, the spokesman added that the Government attaches great importance to human rights and freedoms and is determined to safeguard them. The Police have been carrying out enforcement actions in strict accordance with the law in order to protect life and property and restore order to society. The Government is also committed to universal suffrage of "one person, one vote" for selecting the Chief Executive and electing all members of the Legislative Council, as enshrined in the Basic Law. Details here.

Government responds to NGO report
   
Unlocking business potential

January 15, 2020 - Determined to unlock the vast potential of the asset and wealth management business, Hong Kong has been stepping up efforts to sharpen Hong Kong's competitive edge through a multi-pronged approach, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan at the Asia Private Equity Forum 2020 (Jan 15). These include diversifying fund structures and streamlining licensing process, adopting a more user-friendly approach to attract family offices, providing a more facilitative tax environment for funds, and expanding the fund distribution network. Among the world's top 10 private equity fund managers, nine have a presence in Hong Kong, underlining the city's formidable strengths in the Asian private equity market. Details here.

Unlocking business potential
   
Asian Financial Forum opens

January 13, 2020 - Hong Kong's financial system remains stable and remarkably successful despite the challenges of global economic slowdown, trade disputes among major economies, geopolitical uncertainties and local issues over the past two years, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam at the opening session of the 13th Asian Financial Forum (Jan 13). "Our core competitiveness, and our status as one of the world's premier financial centers, continues to be internationally recognized," said Mrs Lam, who emphasized that Hong Kong, with its strategic regional location and its extensive, ever-deepening cultural and financial links with the Mainland, is China's international financial center, contributing to the sustainable progress of the country, the region and the world. Hong Kong would also enhance its role as the business bridge between the Mainland and the rest of the world through the two national policies of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development and the Belt and Road Initiative. Details here.

Asian Financial Forum opens
   
Financial market stable

January 13, 2020 - In his welcome remarks at the keynote luncheon of the Asian Financial Forum, Financial Secretary Paul Chan highlighted the strengths of Hong Kong as a global financial center underpinned by its solid linked exchange rate system, its fully convertible currency and the free flow of capital enshrined in Article 112 of the Basic Law. He said Hong Kong's capital markets are deep and liquid, the exchange rate remains stable and the banking system continues to run smoothly with ample liquidity, reflecting the integrity of the city's financial system and the confidence it conveys even in face of challenges. Citing Hong Kong's achievements in the financial services sector, he said the city would also step up efforts to capitalize on emerging opportunities not only from green finance and fintech but from the Greater Bay Area development and the Belt and Road Initiative. Details here.

Financial market stable
   
Pledge to uphold judicial independence

January 13, 2020 - Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma said the rule of law is rightly cherished by the community and is the foundation of a cohesive society. "We must do all our best to preserve it and to treasure it because once damaged, this is not something from which our community can easily recover, said Mr Ma at the opening of the 2020 Legal Year. Pledging to uphold judicial independence, Mr Ma said, "Everyone is subject to the law, no one is above it. The duty on the courts to enforce the law is a constitutional requirement of the Basic Law. I can say with confidence that my fellow judges and I will discharge our duties without compromise and without fear." The Chief Justice pointed out that the proper administration of justice depends on judges discharging the duties and responsibilities incumbent on them. "Judges do not have the duty to achieve a certain result in accordance with popular wishes, whether they be majority or minority wishes," he said. "However, they have to ensure that a fair trial takes place and to adhere strictly to the requirements of the law. In the discharge of their responsibilities, judges look only to the letter of the law and to the spirit of the law, and nothing else." Political, economic or social considerations, as opposed to legal considerations, simply do not enter into the equation. Details here.

Pledge to uphold judicial independence
   
Rule of law upheld

January 13, 2020 - Noting that many of Hong Kong's core values, including the rule of law, have been under challenge during the past year, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said fair trial and due process are essential elements of the procedural aspects of the rule of law, with the judiciary playing the pivotal role. These are backed by the city's transparent system of law, and an independent judiciary. Speaking at the ceremonial opening of the 2020 Legal Year, Ms Cheng added that all prosecutorial decisions taken by the Department of Justice are made after taking into account the available evidence, applicable laws and the principles set out in the Prosecution Code. She also highlighted the initiatives taken in 2019, including an inaugural annual Hong Kong Legal Week, and arrangements between Hong Kong and the Mainland in arbitration and intellectual property. Details here.

Rule of law upheld
   
Fintech Week to be held in November

January 13, 2020 - The fifth annual Hong Kong Fintech Week will return to AsiaWorld-Expo from Nov 2- 6 at AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong and in Shenzhen. The signature cross-boundary Shenzhen day is part of a broader focus on the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The run-up to Fintech Week starts this month with the first-ever FintechHK Startup Salon at the Asian Financial Forum (Jan 13-14). This is a new initiative to help early stage fintech start-ups connect and exchange ideas with potential investors, and to introduce their latest solutions and innovations to conference participants.  Throughout 2020, fintech start-ups from around the world will have the opportunity to participate in the Fintech Week signature programs, with the FintechHK Global Competition in the spotlight. Last year's Fintech Week drew more than 12,000 attendees, up about 50 per cent from the figure in the previous year, and there were 150 exhibitors and 18 trade delegations. Hong Kong is now home to more than 600 fintech companies, up around 10% year-on-year. Details here.

Fintech Week to be held in November
   
Hong Kong remains world's top IPO market

Hong Kong retains its crown in the world's initial public offering league table for the second consecutive year, with the Hong Kong stock exchange raising US$40 billion from 183 newly listed companies last year. This was higher than the US$36.8 billion raised in 2018. This also marked the seventh time in the last 11 years that Hong Kong has topped the ranking table. Stock market capitalisation in 2019 reached almost US$4.9 trillion, a 27.6% surge from the previous year's US$3.8 trillion. Details here.

Hong Kong remains world's top IPO market
   
HKSARG responds to US report

January 9, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR (HKSAR) Government expressed strong opposition to the enactment of the 'Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act' in the US. "The Act clearly intervenes in Hong Kong's internal affairs. It is unwarranted, sends an erroneous signal to violent protesters, and harms the relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the US. The HKSAR Government deeply regretted that the US has disregarded the genuine concerns raised repeatedly by Hong Kong on the Act and let the Act become US law," said a spokesman (Jan 9), in response to media enquiries to parts of a report related to Hong Kong issued by the United States (Congressional-Executive Commission on China. "Since the return to the Motherland, the HKSAR has been exercising 'Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong' and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. The HKSAR Government will continue to implement the 'one country, two systems' principle resolutely in accordance with the Basic Law. Details here.

HKSARG responds to US report
   
Port health measures boosted

January 7, 2020 - The Government has been strengthening port health measures to tackle the Wuhan-related illness, said Secretary for Food & Health Professor Sophia Chan (Jan 7). The Department of Health has been working very hard to strengthen measures, particularly at the airport and the West Kowloon Station of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link. To strengthen Hong Kong's capability in monitoring the disease, and in the prevention and control of infectious diseases, Prof Chan added that the Prevention & Control of Disease (Amendment) Regulation 2020 and the Prevention & Control of Disease Ordinance (Amendment of Schedule 1) Notice 2020 will be gazetted on January 8 to include the severe respiratory disease associated with a novel infectious agent as a statutorily notifiable infectious disease. Details here.

Port health measures boosted
   
November retail sales drop 23.6%

January 1, 2020 - November's value of total retail sales (Jan 3) fell 23.6% year-on-year to a provisionally estimated US$3.8 billion. Retail sales continued to fall sharply in November as the local social incidents turned extremely violent, causing very severe disruptions to tourism and consumption-related activities and further dampening consumption sentiment. Noting that the near-term outlook for the retail trade hinges on how the local social incidents will evolve, the Government said that putting an end to violence and restoring social order are essential to the recovery of the retail trade and the economy as a whole. Details here.

November retail sales drop 23.6%
   
Government refutes claims in open letter

January 1, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government refutes the unfounded and misguided claims in an open letter to the Chief Executive signed by a group of overseas politicians and persons. In a statement (Jan 1) , the Government made clear that since Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, “one country, two systems” and a high degree of autonomy had been faithfully implemented in strict accordance with the Basic Law, which clearly stipulates that the HKSAR is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China. "We are gravely concerned that the claims in their letter are biased and misleading," the government statement said, stressing that Police do not initiate actions against protesters and only respond with appropriate and proportionate force when protesters take part in illegal activities. The actions and response of the Police at all times over the past six months were only in response to the blatant disregard for public safety and order by radical protesters. Police have established clear guidelines on the use of force which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. Fully recognizes that freedom and the rule of law are the core values and cornerstone of Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability, the Hong Kong SAR Government is determined to safeguard these core values at all times. Details here.

Government refutes claims in open letter
   
Justice Department and HK legal bodies responds to criticism against judge

January 1, 2020 - Responding to vandalism outside the High Court Building and criticism against a judge, the Department of Justice said (Jan 1) personal attacks and insults against judges would severely undermine the authority of the courts and damage public confidence in the judicial system. The Hong Kong Bar Association and The Law Society of Hong Kong issued a joint statement (Jan 2) condemning the abusive graffiti on the High Court building. The two organizations strongly deplored these criminal acts as an "affront to the rule of law and judicial integrity" and reiterated their joint commitment to defend the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong. Details here.

Justice Department and HK legal bodies responds to criticism against judge
   


 


    
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