Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York
Hong Kong

What’s New in Hong Kong 2020

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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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