Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York
Hong Kong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New in Hong Kong 2021

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Visitor quarantine to be eased

Apr 12, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government is preparing to relax the compulsory quarantine requirement for people arriving in Hong Kong from overseas and the Mainland. Chief Executive Carrie Lam made the announcement at a press conference today, noting that the quarantine period for those from low-risk countries can be shortened to seven days. Details of the implementation is still being worked out. Currently, visitors from low-risk countries (Singapore, New Zealand and Australia) have a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Hong Kong. Mrs Lam also expects to be able to announce more details about the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble soon. Details here.

Visitor quarantine to be eased
   
Social distancing measures to be adjusted

Apr 12, 2021 - As Hong Kong enters a new phase in its fight against COVID-19 virus, the Hong Kong SAR Government plans to adjust social distancing measures to allow those who have received the COVID-19 vaccination to form “vaccine bubble” and gather in larger numbers that is currently allowed at venues such as restaurants. The number of people allowed to be seated together at one table in restaurants will be increased from four to six, and their dine-in service can be extended from 10pm to midnight on the condition that all staff have been vaccinated and patrons use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app. The easing of social distancing measures based on the “vaccine bubble” principle will also apply to six types of establishments including bars, karaokes and nightclubs which can be reopened in phases after they meet the vaccination requirements for their staff and customers. Current social distancing measures that are in place in the city will be extended for two weeks till Apr 28 as the government monitors the situation following the Easter holiday. Details here.

Social distancing measures to be adjusted
   
Airport projects strengthen connectivity

Apr 12, 2021 - Major projects of the Airport Authority of Hong Kong, including the three-runway system (3RS), SKYCITY and AsiaWorld-Expo Phase 2, will broaden Hong Kong International Airport’s (HKIA) catchment and harness its competitiveness, consolidating the city’s status as a preeminent international aviation hub, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan during a visit to HKIA today. The third runway is expected to be commissioned in 2022 and the 3RS in 2024 to cater for long-term air traffic demand. Once the 3RS is fully commissioned, the airport’s annual passenger handling capacity will be around 100 million and its annual cargo handling capacity will be about nine million tonnes. “The pandemic has brought about a significant impact on the aviation industry around the world, but I am confident that the industry and air traffic will gradually recover after the pandemic,” said Mr Chan. Details here.

Airport projects strengthen connectivity
   
Insights on arbitration

Apr 12, 2021 - Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng highlighted the importance of Hong Kong as an international deal-making and legal and dispute resolution services center, adding that the 14th Five-Year Plan promotes Hong Kong’s development in various key areas and supports Hong Kong in fully utilizing its unique status and advantages. Speaking at a webinar today, Ms Cheng urged different sectors of Hong Kong to grasp the opportunities and better integrate into national development by complementing the country’s “dual circulation” development strategy. Details here.

Insights on arbitration
Apr 12, 2021 - Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng highlighted the importance of Hong Kong as an international deal-making and legal and dispute resolution services center, adding that the 14th Five-Year Plan promotes Hong Kong’s development in various key areas and supports Hong Kong in fully utilizing its unique status and advantages. Speaking at a webinar today, Ms Cheng urged different sectors of Hong Kong to grasp the opportunities and better integrate into national development by complementing the country’s “dual circulation” development strategy. Details here.
   
Electoral system safeguards “one country, two systems”

Apr 11, 2021 - Electoral changes in Hong Kong will not impinge on the rights of Hong Kong residents to vote or to stand for election, said Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung, in his “Letter to Hong Kong”. He reiterated that the objective of the electoral system is to safeguard “one country, two systems” and support the constitutional order of the HKSAR. A refashioned Election Committee, comprising 1,500 members form five sectors, will play an important role in the new system. Beyond its current role of electing the Chief Executive, the Committee will elect some legislators as well. This in turn will make the Legislative Council (LegCo) more broadly representative of Hong Kong, with the number of seats at LegCo expanding from 70 to 90. Details here.

Electoral system safeguards “one country, two systems”
   
Hong Kong plays key role in global supply chain

Apr 2, 2021 - Despite the challenges in the past year, Hong Kong continues to turn in an impressive performance in the logistics sector, playing a key role in the global supply chain. Addressing the Symposium on ASIA-USA Partnership Opportunities today, Director of HKETONY Candy Nip said Hong Kong, with its prime geographical location, institutional strengths and international connections, remains a robust international aviation and maritime center and a regional logistics hub. The city is set to benefit from regional growth opportunities in Asia along with developments in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Ms Nip also highlighted the various initiatives implemented by the operators at Hong Kong’s airport and seaport in improving the efficiency and reliability in supply chain management. These included the use of GPS trackers, blockchain software, robotics and automated systems to provide real-time information that help move packages through the supply chain. Details here.

Hong Kong plays key role in global supply chain
   
Latest shipment of Comirnaty vaccine arrives in Hong Kong

Apr 2, 2021 - The shipment of about 300,000 doses of the Comirnaty vaccine manufactured by BioNTech, filled and finished at another plant in Germany, arrived in Hong Kong on April 2 afternoon. Soon after the arrival of the latest batch of the Comirnaty vaccine in Hong Kong, staff carried out stringent checking and inspection of the vaccine in accordance with established procedures to ensure that it complies with the product specifications and that the transportation process follows the relevant cold-chain requirements. The Government would put the vaccine in validated ultra-low temperature freezers to ensure its proper storage in accordance with the temperature specified by the drug manufacturer. Details here.

Latest shipment of Comirnaty vaccine arrives in Hong Kong
   
Government objects to US report

Apr 1, 2021 - The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government expressed strong objection to the remarks contained in the Hong Kong Policy Act Report issued by US State Department. In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China and a local administrative region that enjoys a high degree of autonomy under “one country, two systems”. It reiterates that national security is a matter within the purview of the central authorities and enacting laws on national security with extraterritorial effect is also squarely in line with international practice. The statement made it clear that the constitutional duty of judges, in the exercise of their judicial power, is to apply the law and nothing else. Such duty does not change when judges decide cases arising from or involving political controversies. Details here.

Government objects to US report
   
Inaugural joint event held

Mar 31, 2021 - With global economies on track to recovery, Hong Kong’s economy is forecast to grow by 3.5% to 5.5% in real terms in 2021, after a 6.1% contraction said Director of HKETONY Candy Nip, who gave an update on the latest developments in Hong Kong at a virtual networking and business spotlight event this evening. Participants also learned more about upcoming projects and potential business opportunities. This inaugural online event was co-organized by the Hong Kong Association of New York and the Hong Kong Association of Northern California. Details here.

Inaugural joint event held
   
BioNTech vaccination to resume

Apr 1, 2021 - BioNTech vaccination service in Hong Kong will resume on Apr 5. The service resumption follows an investigation into packaging defects of the vial caps of the vaccine batch supplied to Hong Kong which showed that the problem was only associated with vaccine packaging under transport conditions, while the production process and vaccine quality were found to be intact. Approximately 300,000 doses of the BioNTech vaccine produced in Germany and filled and finished at another plant in the country are expected to arrive in Hong Kong on Apr 2. People who have a booking to be vaccinated on or after Apr 5 can receive the jab at the community vaccination centers they selected at the time slot they had initially booked and need not make a fresh appointment. For those who made an appointment for their BioNTech vaccine second dose on or before Apr 4, the Hong Kong SAR Government will reserve a vaccination slot for them on a day between Apr 5 and 10. A new slot will also be reserved for people who booked an appointment for the first dose between March 24 and April 4. Details here.

BioNTech vaccination to resume
   
New inspection arrangements balanced

Mar 31, 2021 - The new inspection arrangements for the Companies Register has struck a reasonable balance between continuing to allow public access to the necessary personal information to ascertain the identity of directors and other major officers of companies, and protecting personal privacy, said the Financial Services & the Treasury Bureau in a statement today, in response to news reports on the implementation of the register’s inspection arrangements. Upon the new inspection regime’s implementation, all searchers, including the media, will continue to be able to access the information of directors on the register. Such information includes directors’ personal correspondence addresses and partial identification numbers (IDN). The availability of other information currently available for inspection on the register will not be hindered in any way. The new inspection arrangements are comparable to those adopted in other overseas common law jurisdictions. Details here.

New inspection arrangements balanced
   
Exchange Fund at US$587.4 billion

Mar 31, 2021 - Total assets of the Exchange Fund amounted to HK$4,581.8 billion (US$587.4 billion) as at February 28, 2021. This is HK$46.9 billion (US$6 billion) higher than that at the end of January 2021. Foreign currency assets increased by HK$43.8 billion (US$5.6 billion) and Hong Kong dollar assets increased by HK$3.1 billion (US$397 million). The Currency Board Account shows that the Monetary Base at the end of February 2021 was HK$2,117 billion (US$271.4 billion). Backing Assets remained unchanged at HK$2,324.6 billion (US$298 billion). Details here.

Exchange Fund at US$587.4 billion
   
Financial results for the 11 months ended February 28, 2021

Mar 31, 2021 - The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government announced today its financial results for the 11 months ended February 28, 2021. There was a surplus of HK$19.7 billion (US$2.5 billion) in the month of February. Expenditure for the 11-month period amounted to HK$723 billion (US$92.6 billion) and revenue HK$510.1 billion (US$65.3 billion), with the cumulative year-to-date deficit at HK$193.6 billion (US$24.8 billion) after receipt of net proceeds of HK$19.3 billion (US$2.4 billion) from issuance of green bonds under the Government Green Bond Programme (Green Bond). The fiscal reserves stood at HK$966.7 billion (US$123.9 billion). Details here.

Financial results for the 11 months ended February 28, 2021
   
Government opposes US report

Mar 31, 2021- The Hong Kong SAR Government today expressed strong opposition to the comments contained in the US State Department's 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices relating to the Hong Kong SAR. The Government said human rights are fully protected by law in Hong Kong. The Basic Law, which serves as the constitutional document of the Hong Kong SAR, provides a constitutional guarantee for fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to equality before the law, and is buttressed by the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Safeguarding human rights and freedoms is a constitutional duty of the Hong Kong SAR Government. It attaches the utmost importance to and is firmly committed to upholding human rights and various freedoms in Hong Kong. Details here.

Government opposes US repor
   
Social distancing measures maintained

Mar 29, 2021 - Social distancing measures currently in place in Hong Kong will be largely maintained until Apr 14, said Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan today. While greatly relaxing the social distancing measures during the Easter holiday may lead to a rebound in infections, some low-risk activities will be resumed to give families a wider choice of activities for the Easter holiday, after careful risk assessment and considering expert advice. Public and private swimming pools can reopen from Apr 1 if they comply with various infection control measures. Public beaches will also reopen in phases. Capacity in cinemas, theme parks and performance venues will be increased from 50% to 75%. Details here.

Social distancing measures maintained
   
Public urged to get vaccinated

Mar 27, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam urged Hong Kong residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible as it not only protects oneself, it also protects families and friends as well as the community. She pointed out that experts have pointed out that it is necessary for a considerable proportion of people to receive vaccination to achieve herd immunity, thereby helping Hong Kong get through the epidemic."To encourage more people to get vaccinated as early as possible, we have been actively studying whether social distancing measures can be further adjusted if a certain number of people are vaccinated, and we will discuss with other regions whether we can mutually provide travel convenience to vaccinated tourists," said Mrs Lam. Details here.

Public urged to get vaccinated
   
Initial vaccine probe completed

Mar 27, 2021 - An initial investigation found that there are no safety risks concerning the two batches of BioNTech vaccines delivered to Hong Kong and the people who have received the BioNTech vaccines do not need to worry. The Hong Kong HKSAR Government made the announcement today after it received the initial investigation results from the supplier of the vaccine. According to the investigations completed so far, there is no indication of any obvious systemic factors during the processes from filling and packaging to administration that could have led to the relevant packaging defects. Details here.

Initial vaccine probe completed
   
February exports value up 30.4%

Mar 25, 2021 - The value of Hong Kong's total exports increased to HK$311.1 billion (US$39.8 billion) in February, up 30.4% on the same month last year. The value of imports of goods increased 17.6% to HK$325.8 billion (US$41.7 billion) for the same period, resulting in a trade deficit of HK$14.7 billion (US$1.8 billion), or 4.5% of the value of imports. Comparing the three-month period ending February with the preceding three months on a seasonally adjusted basis, the value of exports rose 18.9%, while that of imports increased 16%. Taking the first two months of the year together to remove the distortion caused by the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year, the value of exports increased sharply by 37.6% over a year earlier, reflecting a further pick-up in growth momentum alongside the revival of global trading and production activities. Details here.

February exports value up 30.4%
   
Global Regtech Challenge launched

Mar 25, 2021 - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) today launched the "Global Regtech Challenge", a competition designed to raise the Hong Kong banking industry's awareness of the potential of Regulatory Technology (Regtech) adoption. The contest is one of the key highlights in the HKMA's two-year roadmap to promote Regtech adoption in Hong Kong, as laid out in a White Paper entitled "Transforming Risk Management and Compliance: Harnessing the Power of Regtech" published in Nov 2020. Regtech providers from around the world are invited to take part to showcase how their solutions may be applied to the local market to help solve common risk management and regulatory compliance pain points experienced by banks. Interested Regtech providers will need to put forward a market-ready solution to at least one of the above problem statements. Participants from anywhere in the world can register online at matchi.biz/HKMA_Global_Regtech_Challenge where detailed information about the competition can be found. The deadline for submission is Apr 16, 2021. Details here.

Global Regtech Challenge launched
   
City in Time tourism project launched

Mar 25, 2021 - Hong Kong's Tourism Commission today launched the City in Time tourism project that lets locals and tourists travel through time and enjoy enriched visual and audio experiences through multimedia technologies and augmented reality (AR) on their smartphones. Using the “City in Time” mobile app, locals and tourists can scan the AR markers installed at designated locations to experience 360-degree historical panoramas featuring heritage photos or illustrations by young Hong Kong artists. The mobile app is also equipped with a selfie function that enables users to share their City in Time experience with friends on social media platforms. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said: “City in Time” is a key project to promote cultural, creative and smart tourism. “Despite the disruptions to travel as a result of the epidemic, we will continue to strengthen the appeal of Hong Kong’s attractions to prepare for the return of visitors by showcasing the city’s distinctive culture and history," he said. The app is available for free download at the Apple App Store and Google Play. Details here.

City in Time tourism project launched
   
Opportunities for I&T sector

Mar 24, 2021 - Secretary for Innovation & Technology Alfred Sit today briefed the innovation and technology (I&T) sector on the opportunities brought about by the 14th Five-Year Plan at two virtual seminars. The 14th Five-Year Plan indicates clear support for Hong Kong's development into an international I&T hub as well as taking forward the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The Innovation & Technology Bureau will work at full steam to take forward relevant work to further consolidate the city's position as a global research collaboration hub and facilitate cross-boundary exchange of innovative elements. Mr Sit also shared the Hong Kong SAR Government's efforts in promoting I&T and the latest developments of co-operation with the Mainland and exchanged views on issues of mutual concern with the participants. Details here.

Opportunities for I&T sector
   
BioNTech vaccination suspended

Mar 24, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today announced that following written notification this morning from Fosun Industrial, it immediately suspended COVID-19 vaccinations concerning BioNTech after deviations in the vial seal were found in one batch of the vaccine. The Government noted that while BioNTech and Fosun Pharma have no reason to believe there is a risk to product safety, for the sake of prudence, vaccination of the batch concerned should be suspended pending an investigation. A second batch of the BioNTech vaccine is also put on hold as a precautionary measure to ensure vaccine safety. An investigation will be carried out in Hong Kong as well as at the manufacturing plant in Germany. Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan reiterated that Hong Kong has a sound drugs monitoring system which includes vaccines. “The system is in place and it is robust. There will be continuous drugs monitoring. And finally, I think with the existing mechanism that we have, all the vaccines that we have authorised for emergency use are safe, efficacious and also of required quality," she said. Details here.

BioNTech vaccination suspended
   
Inflation rises by 0.3%

Mar 22, 2021 - Hong Kong's overall consumer prices in February rose by 0.3% year-on-year, smaller than the corresponding 1.9% increase in January. Netting out the effects of all Government’s one-off relief measures, the year-on-year rate of change in February’s underlying inflation rate was -0.1%, smaller than January’s -0.5%. This was mainly due to the increases in the costs for meals bought away from home and the charges for household services. Details here.

Inflation rises by 0.3%
   
Support for lawtech development

Mar 21, 2021 - Attaching great importance to lawtech to provide legal services, Hong Kong is supporting further development of lawtech, not just in Hong Kong but also internationally, said Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, SC, at the 18th Willem C. Vis (East) International Commercial Arbitration Moot today. In a new initiative, a Department of Justice Project Office for Collaboration with UNCITRAL has been set up to study legal issues relating to the increasing use of emerging technology. To promote the sustainable development of lawtech, the Department of Justice is actively exploring the development of the Hong Kong Legal Cloud to provide safe, secure and affordable data storage services, with a view to enhancing the capability of the profession to harness modern technology in the provision of legal and dispute resolution services. Details here.

Support for lawtech development
   
Chief Executive addresses development forum

Mar 20, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she is confident that Hong Kong will thrive and soar higher with the full support of the central authorities. Addressing over 30 invited global business leaders at the Hong Kong Session of China Development Forum 2021 today, Mrs Lam said her confidence is grounded in two major decisions made by the National People’ Congress that have put Hong Kong back on its right track, that is, fully and faithfully upholding ‘Oone Ccountry, Ttwo Ssystems’, safeguarding national security and ensuring Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. This is further boosted by the support given by the central government to Hong Kong in the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic & Social Development, which reaffirms support for the city to enhance its status as an international financial center and strengthen its role as a global offshore renminbi business hub, an international asset management center and a risk management center. Mrs Lam said Hong Kong will proactively become a participant in domestic circulation and a facilitator in international circulation amidst the dual circulation development strategy of the country. Details here.

Chief Executive addresses development forum
   
New quarantine hotel list issued

Mar 19, 2021 - A total of 30 hotels will provide about 8,300 rooms under the third cycle of the Designated Quarantine Hotel Scheme for selection by people arriving in Hong Kong from places outside China. Twenty-nine hotels on the list were designated hotels in the second cycle, while one of them is a new participant. The contract period will run from Apr 21 to Jun 19. The Government said that it will continue to provide more hotels offering lower room rates in the new cycle after considering the market demand for hotels offering different rates. The Designated Quarantine Hotel Scheme was implemented on Dec 22, 2020 to further prevent importation of COVID-19 cases and reduce contact between arrivals from overseas and the local community. It requires all travellers arriving from places outside China to undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days at designated quarantine hotels. Details here.

New quarantine hotel list issued
   
Airport holding arrangement revised

Mar 19, 2021 - Air crew and all other exempted people must wait for their COVID-19 test results at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) when entering the city via the airport from tomorrow (Mar 20). The Hong Kong SAR Government said it will cancel the designation for Headland Hotel and Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel as designated holding locations for exempted people. Since Feb 20, all people exempted from compulsory quarantine have been subject to the “test-and-hold” arrangement to undergo testing and wait for the result at HKIA or designated locations when entering Hong Kong via the airport. The changes were made in view of the shortened waiting time for test results at HKIA. It also aims to further mitigate the risk of exempted people coming into contact with other people during the holding period. The Government emphasized that the revision aims to minimize comprehensively the risk of community transmission brought about by the importation of cases, particularly those carrying virus variants. All the airlines have been duly notified of this arrangement. Details here.

Airport holding arrangement revised
   
Vaccine recommendations published

Mar 18, 2021 - The two scientific committees under the Centre for Health Protection, joined by the Chief Executive’s expert advisory panel, convened a meeting today to provide recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccination for those with previous COVID-19 infection. The meeting noted that previous COVID-19 infection usually confers immunity for at least six to nine months for the majority of patients. There is accumulating evidence showing that those previously infected with COVID-19 would be further protected by one dose of mRNA vaccines and that studies have shown that the existing vaccines work well against the non-variant. The effectiveness data against variants differ by vaccines. The Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine is effective against the variants which first emerged in the UK and Brazil, but is less effective against the South African one. There is currently limited efficacy data of CoronaVac developed by Sinovac Biotech (Hong Kong) against variants. The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford is effective against the UK variants but is ineffective against the South African one. The meeting also agreed that the combination of non-pharmaceutical interventions with vaccination will allow for maximum protection against the virus. There is a need to continue social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing a mask in public to reduce the risk of transmission. Details here.

Vaccine recommendations published
   
January exports up 44.6%

Mar 18, 2021 - The volume of Hong Kong’s total goods exports increased 44.6% year-on-year in January. The volume of goods imports for the month rose 37.2% over January 2020. Goods exports prices decreased 0.4% year-on-year for the month, while prices of goods imports increased 0.5%. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the volume of goods exports increased 9.1% in the three-month period ending January compared with the preceding three months, while the volume of goods imports rose 10.3%. January's total export volume to the US grew 20.9% year-on-year. Details here.

January exports up 44.6%
   
Hong Kong's financial ranking rises

Mar 17, 2021 - Hong Kong has ranked fourth in the latest Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) Report, up by one place from the last index. The GFCI Report was published by the Z/Yen from the UK and the China Development Institute from Shenzhen. The Hong Kong SAR Government said the overall ratings of financial centers ranked second to fourth in the report were very close, with a marginal difference of only one point among them, adding that Hong Kong ranked in the top five in five areas of competitiveness. According to the report, the overall ratings of financial centers had yet to recover to the levels in 2019 and this reflected the continuing uncertainty brought about by international trade, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the geopolitical environment. Amid the volatile global financial market in the past year, Hong Kong's financial system had been operating smoothly. The Linked Exchange Rate System and various facets of the markets had also been functioning in an orderly manner. Hong Kong's institutional strengths, including its highly open and internationalized markets, robust infrastructure support, internationally aligned regulatory regimes, rule of law, a large pool of financial talents and a full range of financial products as well as free flow of information and capital, are competitive edges that will continue to consolidate Hong Kong's status as a leading international financial center. Details here.

Hong Kong's financial ranking rises
   
New film talents shine at Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema

Mar 17, 2021 - The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York (HKETONY) is collaborating with the Asian Pop-up Cinema (APUC) in Chicago to present five newly released Hong Kong movies in its spring season film festival, running from March 15 to May 1. In her video remarks, the HKETONY Director Candy Nip thanked the APUC and US audiences for their support to Hong Kong movies. The five selected films showcase the energy and dynamics of Hong Kong’s film industry, and the outstanding talents of emerging directors. “Keep Rolling”, a directorial debut from veteran art director Man Lim-chung, kicked off the Hong Kong series today. The documentary probes into the idiosyncratic world of Ann Hui, one of the most influential filmmakers in Hong Kong. Also featured at the festival are “Elisa’s Day”, directed by Alan Fung, a winner of the Hong Kong’s First Feature Film Initiative; “One Second Champion” by Chiu Sin-hang, who is the lead vocalist of a local Hong Kong band; “I Still Remember” by Lik Ho and “Ready O/R Knot” by Anselm Chan. Details here.

New film talents shine at Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema
   
Electric vehicle roadmap unveiled

Mar 17, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today announced the first Hong Kong Roadmap on Popularization of Electric Vehicles which sets out long-term policy objectives and plans for the city to attain zero vehicular emissions before 2050. Introducing the key measures, Secretary for the Environment KS Wong said the intention of the roadmap is to provide a very clear direction with a timeline for everyone in town to consider how to meet the target of carbon neutrality by 2050. The roadmap covers six aspects to promote the adoption of electric vehicles and their supporting facilities. The Government will take the lead to set electric cars as standard for its small and medium private cars to be procured or replaced, and encourage public organizations to make reference to such a green procurement policy. The government will promote trials for electric public transport and commercial vehicles including buses, public light buses, taxis and goods vehicles, with a view to setting a concrete way forward and a timetable around 2025. Noting that the Government will review the roadmap's strategies and targets around every five years, Mr Wong called on the public's support for the popularization of electric vehicles to make Hong Kong a liveable, green and smart city. Details here.

Electric vehicle roadmap unveiled
   
US sanctions condemned

Mar 17, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today condemned the latest move by the US Department of State, under an update to the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which continued to put 24 officials of the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong SAR Government on a sanctions list. In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the Hong Kong SAR’s high degree of autonomy is guaranteed under “one country, two systems”, adding that the Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the PRC and is directly accountable to the Central People’s Government. National security and political structure are matters within the central authorities’ purview. In respect of the national security legislation, its positive effect in restoring peace and stability and safeguarding individual rights and freedoms, has been felt throughout Hong Kong by residents as well as expatriates living and working in the city. The National People's Congress’s recent decision to improve the electoral system in the Hong Kong SAR is to ensure “patriots administering Hong Kong”. No country would allow its governance power to be vested in people who are not patriotic and who will endanger the country’s interests. Details here.

US sanctions condemned
   
Social distancing measures extended

Mar 17, 2021 - Social distancing measures currently in place will be extended till Mar 31 as the COVID-19 epidemic situation in Hong Kong remains volatile. Large-scale cluster outbreaks were found at catering business premises and fitness centers, and silent transmission in the community is still active. Catering business premises should comply with specified requirements on air change or air purifier(s) by Apr 30. Bathhouses, party rooms, clubs or nightclubs, karaoke establishments, and swimming pools will remain closed. Unless exempted, the prohibition on group gatherings of more than four people in public places will continue. The requirement for wearing a mask at all times when on public transport and in public places will also remain in effect. Details here.

Social distancing measures extended
   
Unemployment rate rises to 7.2%

Mar 16, 2021 - Hong Kong's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 7.2%, the highest since 2004, for the period between December and February compared to the previous three-month period. The underemployment rate also increased to a post-SARS high of 4% during the period. Secretary for Labour & Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong pointed out that the labor market was still under notable pressure during the period. However, the situation began to stabilize in the latter part of the three-month period as the COVID-19 epidemic improved. Looking ahead, he said the labor market will still face challenges in the near term as the epidemic has yet to be fully contained and inbound tourism remains frozen. "With the launch of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme, the threat of the epidemic may gradually recede and this will help ease the pressure on the labour market later in the year," he said. Details here.

Unemployment rate rises to 7.2%
   
Family quarantine explained

Mar 16, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today said that for COVID-19 cases where children are involved, each and every decision has been made in the interests of the children and their families concerning their quarantine and isolation. Sending close contacts to the government-run quarantine centers (QCs) is considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account a number of factors, including whether there are special needs, medical needs and the distance between close contacts' residence and the QC. For children aged under 18 to be quarantined in the QCs, the Department of Health upon request would generally allow one of the parents to accompany them to the QCs to take care of them. If a parent tests positive and needs to be hospitalized, a caretaker arranged by the parents could be allowed to accompany the quarantined child. To cater for the specific needs of children including babies, the Social Welfare Department provides a wide range of items in the QCs available to minors, including cots, blankets, bumpers, clothes, cutlery, toiletries, nappies, baby food and snacks, as well as coloring pencils and coloring books. Milk warmers, milk bottle sterilizers and refrigerators for parents are also provided upon request. The Government added that if anyone in quarantine or isolation has any questions, requests or suggestions, it has put in place procedures so their needs can be met as far as practicable and as safely as possible. Details here.

Family quarantine explained
   
Vaccination program expanded

Mar 15, 2021 - Hong Kong residents aged 30 and above can make a booking online from Mar 16 to receive COVID-19 vaccines as part of the Hong Kong SAR Government’s efforts to expand the scope of the priority groups to allow more people to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Two more priority groups – domestic helpers and students aged 16 or above studying overseas – will be included in the vaccination program as well. With the expansion, the vaccination priority groups will cover more than 5.5 million people, accounting for more than 80% of the population aged 16 or above. Details here.

Vaccination program expanded
   
Public urged to get COVID-19 vaccination

Mar 15, 2021 - Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan appealed to the public to receive the vaccination as soon as possible. “It would be of the best interest, not only of the individuals, but also of all the sector to get vaccinated. It is because with vaccination, with more people getting vaccinated in Hong Kong, the faster we will be able to get herd immunity, and the faster we will be able to get our normal daily life and our economic situation back on track,” she said. To date, a cumulative total of about 206,000 persons have received their first vaccination dose. Details here.

Public urged to get COVID-19 vaccination
   
Travel restrictions maintained

Mar 15, 2021 - As the global COVID-19 epidemic situation remains severe, Hong Kong continues to maintain the boarding restrictions for places with severe epidemic situation and 21-day compulsory quarantine arrangements for inbound travelers from overseas. People arriving from the US have to present proof of a negative result of a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted within 72 hours before the scheduled time of departure of the aircraft. The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to monitor closely the situation, including the developments of the epidemic situation both globally and locally and changes in the volume of cross-boundary passenger traffic, and will adjust the boarding and compulsory quarantine requirements for persons arriving at Hong Kong from other high-risk places when necessary. Details here.

Travel restrictions maintained
   
Advisory body hails national plan

Mar 12, 2021 - Members of the Trade & Industry Advisory Board showed unanimous support for the 14th Five-Year Plan and the National People's Congress' decision on improving Hong Kong's electoral system. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau today briefed the advisory body on the two initiatives which are timely, positive and important to Hong Kong's development. He said the 14th Five-Year Plan supports the city’s future development in various key areas, demonstrating the central government's unwavering support for Hong Kong. The members agreed that the plan's rich content is key to the city's development. The Government will press ahead with measures to bolster Hong Kong's competitiveness in relevant sectors. The members also welcomed the 14th Five-Year Plan's support for Hong Kong in fostering ties with countries and regions around the world. The bureau will continue to establish close economic and trade relations with other economies and forge free trade and investment pacts. Details here.

Advisory body hails national plan
   
Government supports national plan

Mar 11, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government welcomed the National 14th Five-Year Plan that was approved by National People's Congress (NPC) today, saying it will proactively integrate Hong Kong into national development. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the 14th Five-Year Plan is the blueprint and action agenda for the social and economic development of the country in the next five years, noting that the Plan has incorporated many concrete proposals put up by the Hong Kong SAR Government after more than a year of study, demonstrating the central government's unwavering support for Hong Kong. The Plan continues to support Hong Kong to enhance its status as an international financial, transportation and trade center; strengthen its status as a global offshore renminbi business hub, an international asset management center and a risk management center; establish itself as a center for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region; and promote service industries for high-end and high value-added development. It also raises for the first time the support for Hong Kong to enhance its status as an international aviation hub, to develop into an international innovation and technology hub and a regional intellectual property trading center, and develop into a hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world. Details here.

Government supports national plan
   
Hong Kong irreplaceable as international legal hub

Mar 10, 2021 - Hong Kong's success as an international legal hub is built on strong foundations, including a stable business environment, the free flow of capital, a low and simple tax system, and a reliable legal system. Posting on her blog today, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng wrote that Hong Kong's legal infrastructure consists of a well-tested common law system, an open, transparent and independent judiciary, and also a pool of legal talents. Hong Kong law is well-known for its predictability and certainty and has been chosen as the applicable law in many international commercial transactions. Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre has received applications to preserve assets totalling US$1.9 billion and Mainland courts have granted orders totalling US$1.5 billion. Hong Kong is the only jurisdiction outside the Mainland that can provide this service, said Ms Cheng, who also highlighted the opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative and in the Greater Bay Area. "Hong Kong will be an ideal place for people and businesses to connect and excel," Ms Cheng concluded. "In summary, Hong Kong is irreplaceable because of its financial and legal infrastructure, the business opportunities and the pool of talents." Details here.

Hong Kong irreplaceable as international legal hub
   
Building a secure and reliable cyber environment

Mar 9, 2021 - With innovation and technology playing a prominent role in driving economic growth, improving quality of life and in fighting the COVID-19 epidemic effectively, the Hong Kong SAR Government attaches great importance to cyber security, said Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit at the opening of the Information Security Summit 2021 today. Mr Sit highlighted the key aspects of the government's multi-pronged strategy. This includes building a secure and reliable cyber environment and strengthening information security level for the community and nurturing local cyber security talent and attracting global cyber security experts. Mr Sit said the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and the Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team participate actively in computer emergency incident response organizations, and closely connect with the cyber security organizations in the Mainland and the Asia-Pacific region to share cyber security intelligence swiftly and prevent cyber attacks in a more timely manner. Details here.

Building a secure and reliable cyber environment
   
Vaccine priority groups expanded

Mar 8, 2021 - Hong Kong is expanding the scope of priority groups under the COVID-19 vaccination program to cover seven categories of people who have greater risk of exposure and infection to COVID-19. They include staff of premises that serve food and beverages, markets, supermarkets, convenience stores, couriers, and takeaway delivery. It also comprises staff of local public transport service operators, registered construction workers, and property management such as security guards; cleaning and security personnel; teachers and school staff; and employees in the tourism industry, beauty parlors and fitness centers. As of today, a cumulative total of about 103,800 people have received the first dose since the start of the vaccination program on Feb 26. Details here.

Vaccine priority groups expanded
   
Electoral change objective clear

Mar 8, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam explained that the improvements to the electoral system are designed to ensure that whoever is administering Hong Kong is patriotic, adding that only when this requirement has been fulfilled can Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity be ensured, and it will help safeguard the city’s constitutional order under the Basic Law and resolve the city’s deep-seated problems. Speaking to the media today, Mrs Lam said that Hong Kong people will continue to have a role in the future development of the city’s political structure and it has to take place within the proper constitutional framework. Details here.

Electoral change objective clear
   
Second shipment of Comirnaty vaccine arrives in Hong Kong

Mar 7, 2021 - The second shipment of the Comirnaty vaccine, jointly developed by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, arrived in Hong Kong today. Together with the first batch of doses delivered in late February, a total of about 1.34 million doses of the Comirnaty vaccine have arrived in the city. People belonging to the priority groups can now make reservations through the online booking system on the designated website of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme for receiving the Comirnaty vaccine or the Sinovac vaccine.They can also make an appointment for vaccination direct with a private doctor or clinic under the program, without going through the government online booking system. The list of participating private doctors and clinics is available on the designated website of the program. Details here.

Second shipment of Comirnaty vaccine arrives in Hong Kong
   
Economic and legal pact signed

Mar 5, 2021 - Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng signed a memorandum of understanding with Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria to support the creation of the Strengthening Economic Legal Infrastructure sub-fund at a virtual signing ceremony today. The sub-fund, established under the APEC Economic Committee, will provide funding for capacity building work to assist APEC economies to strengthen their economic and legal infrastructure. It demonstrates the Hong Kong SAR’s commitment and contribution to strengthening economic and legal infrastructure in the region, and charts the course for a stronger, closer and more longstanding partnership with APEC. This will also help enhance the city’s visibility and reputation, further consolidating its role as an ideal hub for deal-making and a leading center for international legal and dispute resolution services in the region and beyond. Details here.

Economic and legal pact signed
   
National People's Congress's deliberation respected

Mar 5, 2021 - In response to the National People's Congress’ deliberation at the fourth session of the 13th National People’s Congress on a decision to improve the electoral system of the Hong Kong SAR to implement “patriots administering Hong Kong”, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement that she and the Hong Kong SAR Government fully respect that the Central Government takes the lead to improve the electoral system, pointing out that it has faithfully exercised the Central Authorities’ overall jurisdiction over the Hong Kong SAR. She said the Hong Kong SAR Government will prepare the necessary legislative amendments to the relevant local legislation in accordance with the revised Annexes to the Basic Law for the scrutiny of the Legislative Council. Details here.

National People's Congress's deliberation respected
   
Foreign Currency Reserves at US$495.9 billion

Mar 5, 2021 - The official foreign currency reserve assets of Hong Kong amounted to US$495.9 billion as at the end of February 2021, compared with US$493.2 billion at end-January 2021, representing about seven times the currency in circulation or 41 per cent of Hong Kong dollar M3. Including unsettled foreign exchange contracts, the foreign currency reserve assets of Hong Kong at the end of February 2021 amounted to US$495.7 billion, compared with US$493.2 billion at end-January 2021. Details here.

Foreign Currency Reserves at US$495.9 billion
   
Bountiful opportunities for Hong Kong

Mar 4, 2021 - Hong Kong will continue to reap the benefits of its "one country, two systems" framework, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan, adding that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development presents the city with bountiful business opportunities today and for generations of Hong Kong people, and businesses, to come. Speaking at the South China Morning Post's Redefining Hong Kong Series today, Mr Chan said he is confident the Hong Kong economy will bounce back, with growth of between 3.5% and 5.5% this year and an average annual growth of 3.3% between 2022 and 2025. Details here.

Bountiful opportunities for Hong Kong
   
Economic index exclusion dismaying

Mar 4, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today expressed deep disappointment and serious dismay at the Heritage Foundation's decision to exclude Hong Kong from its 2021 Index of Economic Freedom. In a statement, it said the foundation’s decision is neither warranted nor justified, adding it does not do justice to the Hong Kong which topped the chart as the world's freest economy for 25 years out of the Index's 27-year history. "We take strong exception to the foundation's claim that Hong Kong's economic policies are ultimately controlled from Beijing. This is ill-conceived and simply not true," the statement said, pointing out that Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy over its economic and trade policies as enshrined in our Basic Law," the statement said. "Hong Kong is and will always remain an open, safe, vibrant and pluralistic international financial and business hub, underpinned by economic freedom, the rule of law and judicial independence." The statement pointed out that the foundation's decision to suddenly exclude Hong Kong from this year's assessment was politically biased and a departure from its long-established practice for the index. Hong Kong always ranked high in the areas of fiscal health, business freedom, trade freedom and financial freedom, which are the parameters used by the foundation in compiling its index. The city’s strength in those areas has not changed. Details here.

Economic index exclusion dismaying
   
Hong Kong fully cooperates with central government

Mar 4, 2021- The Hong Kong SAR Government today said the central government has the authority and responsibility to improve the city’s electoral system, adding that it will render its full cooperation to the central government. The Hong Kong SAR Government made the statement in response to the deliberation by the National People's Congress of a draft decision on improving the city's electoral system. To ensure the steadfast and successful implementation of "one country, two systems", Hong Kong must always adhere to the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong". The principle is fundamental to national sovereignty, security, development interests, as well as the long-term prosperity of Hong Kong. Details here.

Hong Kong fully cooperates with central government
   
January retail sales fall 13.6%

Mar 3, 2021 - The value of total retail sales in January, provisionally estimated at HK$32.6 billion (US$4.1 billion), fell 13.6% year-on-year. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales decreased 14.5% year-on-year. The Hong Kong SAR Government said retail sales continued to post a notable year-on-year decline in January amid the fourth wave of the local COVID-19 epidemic. Due to the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year, the figure for January was conceivably distorted and it would thus be more meaningful to examine the figures for January and February combined to assess the latest retail sales performance. Looking ahead, the business environment of the retail trade will still be difficult in the near term as the epidemic continues to pose a threat and inbound tourism remains frozen. Details here.

January retail sales fall 13.6%
   
Social distancing measures extended

Mar 3, 2021 - Social distancing measures currently in place will be maintained until Mar 17 as the COVID-19 epidemic situation in Hong Kong remains volatile, with silent transmission in the community still active, since the gradual and orderly relaxation of social distancing measures on Feb 18. Given the recent cluster in eateries, the Hong Kong SAR Government will require catering business premises to dedicate staff for clearing used utensils and cleaning and disinfecting used tables and partitions to reduce the relevant infection risk. If this arrangement is not practicable, staff carrying out the aforementioned duties must adopt hand hygiene measures before switching to perform other duties and as necessary during each round of cleaning duties. Bathhouses, party rooms, clubs or nightclubs, karaoke establishments, mahjong-tin kau premises and swimming pools will remain closed. Unless exempted, the prohibition on group gatherings of more than four people in public places will continue. The requirement for wearing a mask at all times when on public transport and in public places will also remain in effect. Details here.

Social distancing measures extended
   
Talent scheme eligibility widens

Mar 2, 2021 - The Innovation & Technology Commission today announced that the eligibility for the Research Talent Hub will be extended to enlarge the pool of innovation and technology talent in Hong Kong. Holders of a bachelor's or master's degree in a discipline related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) awarded by a well-recognized non-local institution will be included in the scheme. These institutions refer to the top 100 institutions for STEM-related subjects in the latest Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The Research Talent Hub previously provided funding support for eligible companies or organizations to engage up to four graduates with a doctoral degree in STEM-related disciplines from a local university or a well-recognized non-local institution, or with a bachelor's or master's degree in a STEM-related discipline awarded by a local university to conduct research and development work. It provides maximum monthly allowances of HK$18,000 (US$2,307), HK$21,000 (US$2,692) or HK$32,000 (US$4,102) for research talents with a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree. The maximum engagement period for each research talent is 36 months. Details here.

Talent scheme eligibility widens
   
Comirnaty jab bookings open Mar 3

Mar 1, 2021 - Starting Mar 3, Hong Kong citizens in the priority groups can make online bookings to receive the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine. They can make reservations to receive the vaccination during the Mar 10-30 period at seven community vaccination centers operated by the Hospital Authority. The Department of Health has started distributing the first batch of the Sinovac vaccine to private doctors and clinics participating in the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme today. These doctors and clinics are expected to start providing vaccination services to the public from Mar 2. People can choose and make an appointment to be vaccinated directly with a private doctor or clinic under the program, without going through the Government's online booking system. They must bring their identity document and proof of belonging to a priority group to their vaccination appointment. Details here.

Comirnaty jab bookings open Mar 3
Mar 1, 2021 - Starting Mar 3, Hong Kong citizens in the priority groups can make online bookings to receive the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine. They can make reservations to receive the vaccination during the Mar 10-30 period at seven community vaccination centers operated by the Hospital Authority. The Department of Health has started distributing the first batch of the Sinovac vaccine to private doctors and clinics participating in the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme today. These doctors and clinics are expected to start providing vaccination services to the public from Mar 2. People can choose and make an appointment to be vaccinated directly with a private doctor or clinic under the program, without going through the Government's online booking system. They must bring their identity document and proof of belonging to a priority group to their vaccination appointment. Details here.
   
Stability and order restored

Mar 1, 2021 - The implementation of the National Security Law makes no change to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which confers Hong Kong’s independent judiciary, free from any interference along with the power of final adjudication in the Court of Final Appeal, said Secretary for Security John Lee at a side event webinar at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council today. “Hong Kong residents enjoy not just the same rights and freedoms that they have always been enjoying as enshrined in the Basic Law but also extra protection from national security threats which have rocked Hong Kong in the earlier long period of violence, chaos and harm to persons,” he said, adding that stability and order have been restored with the city is steadily proceeding on the path of recovery and potential growth. Mr Lee reiterated that in Hong Kong, no person is above the law regardless of status, wealth, political power or background. “The National Security Law is applied fairly. Enforcement actions and trials are based on facts and evidence. Judgments are made public with elaborate reasoning on decisions,” he said. Details here.

Stability and order restored
   
Comirnaty vaccine arrives in Hong Kong

Feb 27, 2021 - A total of 585,000 doses of the Comirnaty vaccine, jointly developed by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, arrived in Hong Kong today. Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip and Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan inspected the vaccine’s arrival at the airport. Staff carried out stringent checks and inspections of the vaccine to ensure that it complies with the product specifications and that the transportation process follows the relevant cold-chain requirements. As the vaccine has to be stored in a freezer at a temperature of -70 degrees Celsius, the Government has placed them in a designated storage facility. As the Comirnaty vaccine has stringent requirements for cold-chain management and requires proper thawing procedures, the vaccine will be administered at community vaccination centers to ensure their quality and that the vaccination procedures adhere to requirements. The remaining doses of the first batch of 1 million doses ordered by Hong Kong SAR Government will be delivered to Hong Kong in early March. Details here.

Comirnaty vaccine arrives in Hong Kong
   
COVID-19 vaccination program starts

Feb 26, 2021 - The COVID-19 Vaccination Program was officially launched today, receiving an enthusiastic public response. People in the priority groups who made appointments received the Sinovac vaccine at five Community Vaccination Centres (CVCs) and 18 Hospital Authority (HA) general outpatient clinics. A total of about 6,000 people have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine today, while a cumulative total of about 6,600 persons have been vaccinated since Feb 22. The Government has procured three vaccines from different technology platforms with a total of 22.5 million doses, which would be sufficient for vaccinating all the people in Hong Kong. "Getting vaccinated can not only protect oneself, but also family members and friends, and will help reduce the risk of a community outbreak. We call on the citizens in the five priority groups to get vaccinated early so that our economy and way of life could return to normal as soon as possible," a Government spokesman said. Details here.

COVID-19 vaccination program starts
   
Chief Executive attends bay area ceremony

Feb 26, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam today attended the "Greater Bay Area - Starting Line to a Bright Future" ceremony with youth development as the theme. The Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to giving new impetus to Hong Kong's economic development through participating in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area). It will also step up its publicity and promotional efforts to encourage Hong Kong people to participate more proactively in the development. “Young people are brimming with energy and vitality, and are full of hope and vision for their future. The Greater Bay Area provides a stage to realize their aspirations,” said Mrs Lam at the ceremony. “The Hong Kong SAR Government wishes to encourage Hong Kong young people to aim high and explore opportunities beyond Hong Kong, and unleash their potential on a bigger platform through starting a new business or pursuing a career of their interest in the Greater Bay Area." Details here.

Chief Executive attends bay area ceremony
   
Surplus recorded

Feb 26, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government recorded a surplus of HK$55.5 billion (US$7.1 billion) in January, with expenditure at HK$47.4 billion (US$6 billion) and revenue at $102.8 billion (US$13.1 billion). Government expenditure for the 10-month period ending Jany 31 amounted to HK$667.5 billion (US$85.5 billion), with revenue at HK$454.2 billion (US$58.2 billion), bringing the cumulative year-to-date deficit to HK$213.3 billion (US$27.3 billion). Fiscal reserves stood at HK$947 billion (US$121.4 billion) as at Jan 31. Taking into account the forecast revenue and expenditure for the remaining two months, the deficit for the 2020-21 financial year is expected to be HK$257.6 billion (US$33 billion) and the fiscal reserves are estimated to be HK$902.7 billion (US$115.7 billion) as at the end of March. Details here.

Surplus recorded
   
Financial Secretary unveils 2021-22 Budget

Feb 24, 2021 - Financial Secretary Paul Chan today announced in his 2021-22 budget wide-ranging measures to revive Hong Kong’s economy and help people overcome financial difficulties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Chan said he expected a gradual recovery for the economy this year, but warned of financial challenges in the coming few years. The budget introduces counter-cyclical measures costing over US$15 billion. Severely impacted by the global pandemic, Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 6.1% in 2020. The Financial Secretary forecast economic growth of between 3.5% and 5.5% in real terms in 2021. To help ease financial burden, this year's budget included a range of relief measures for individuals and businesses. In addition, spending would not be reduced in areas related to people’s livelihood, especially the policy areas of education, social welfare and healthcare. The Financial Secretary also set out various initiatives to reinforce the competitiveness, support the recovery and boost the development of key industries, including financial services, innovation and technology, air cargo, tourism and creative industries. Details here.

Financial Secretary unveils 2021-22 Budget
   
WTO to handle trade dispute

Feb 23, 2021 - The World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed at its meeting on Feb 22 to Hong Kong's request to establish a panel to consider the dispute raised by the city with respect to the violation of WTO rules by the US' new requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products, the Hong Kong SAR Government said today. At the DSB meeting, Permanent Representative of the Hong Kong SAR to the WTO Laurie Lo reiterated Hong Kong's strong objection against the US' unilateral and irresponsible imposition of the new requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products. Mr Lo also pointed out that the new requirement is not only unjustifiable but also inconsistent with a number of WTO rules and it damages Hong Kong's interests as a WTO member. It is therefore necessary to set up a panel to follow up on the matter, he explained. The Commerce & Economic Development Bureau said so far 13 WTO members have indicated an interest to join the panel's meetings as third parties, indicating their concern with the issue which involves the multilateral trading system and the equal rights of WTO members. The bureau reiterated that pursuant to the Basic Law, the Hong Kong SAR is a separate customs territory and may, using the name "Hong Kong, China", participate in international organizations such as the WTO and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation as a separate member, and develop mutually beneficial economic and trade relations with economies around the world. Hong Kong's special status has been widely recognized and respected by the international community and the city's economic and trade status is on par with that of other WTO members. Details here.

WTO to handle trade dispute
   
Group gathering limit eased

Feb 23, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today gazetted amendments of various regulations under the Prevention & Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap 599) including relaxing the number of people allowed in group gatherings in public places from two to four and extending the expiry dates of the relevant regulations to Sep 30. The relaxation of social distancing measures in a gradual and orderly manner takes into account that the local COVID-19 epidemic has continued to subside, as well as the need for society as a whole to resume social and economic activities. The extension of expiry dates applies to the following regulations: Compulsory Quarantine of Certain Persons Arriving at Hong Kong Regulation (Cap 599C), Prevention & Control of Disease (Disclosure of Information) Regulation (Cap 599D), Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap 599E), Prevention & Control of Disease (Requirements & Directions) (Business & Premises) Regulation (Cap 599F), Prevention & Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap 599G), Prevention & Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances & Travellers) Regulation (Cap 599H), Prevention & Control of Disease (Wearing of Mask) Regulation (Cap 599I). The extension does not imply that the restrictions currently imposed will be maintained until the corresponding expiry dates. Rather, the relevant statutory framework has provisions in place to allow flexibility that the Government may tighten or relax or even suspend specific requirements and conditions subject to developments of the epidemic situation. Details here.

Group gathering limit eased
   
Chief Executive explains legislative priorities

Feb 23, 2021 - Legislating against people who insult public officials is not the Hong Kong SAR Government’s highest priority, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said today. Speaking ahead of this morning’s Executive Council meeting, Mrs Lam pointed out that the consideration for such a law is not at a mature stage. However, she noted it is the aspiration of many frontline officers to have the legislation implemented. The Government would strike the right balance if it proposes the law, Mrs Lam said. “One day if we were to legislate, I think we would be very careful in striking the needed balance. Yes, the Basic Law protects and upholds rights of individuals, including freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, but as many court cases have made very clear, these rights and freedoms are not without limitations. So when they undermine another person’s rights, then of course something needs to be done.” Details here.

Chief Executive explains legislative priorities
   
Vaccination healthcare services set

Feb 23, 2021 - With the Sinovac vaccine's arrival in Hong Kong, the public who are in the priority groups can make bookings for the vaccinations online starting today through the Hong Kong SAR Government’s COVID-19 Vaccination Programme (Vaccination Programme). The priority groups can receive the Sinovac vaccine at five community vaccination centers and the Hospital Authority's 18 general out-patient clinics from Feb 26. To tie in with the arrival of the Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine, which will arrive shortly in end-February, more community vaccination centers will gradually commence operations. A community vaccination center with 15 booths is expected to provide around 2,500 doses of vaccines on a daily basis at maximum throughput. The Sinovac vaccine will also be available to the public at more than 1,500 clinics operated by more than 1,200 private doctors who participate in the Vaccination Programme before mid-March. The public can choose a private doctor or clinic under the programme and make an appointment for vaccination directly without going through the Government’s online booking system. In addition to a hard copy, citizens' vaccination records will also be kept in an electronic format to enable people to view their vaccination records online. The Government also encourages the public to join the Electronic Health Record Sharing System where the medical and vaccination records of its participants will be saved in encrypted files. Details here.

Vaccination healthcare services set
   
Secretary shares insights on trade landscape

Feb 22, 2021 - Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau shared his insights on the trade landscape under the COVID-19 pandemic at Asia Trade Week 2021 today. During the online interview, Mr Yau said that the pandemic has brought an uneven impact on the trade in Hong Kong. Commodity trade has not been much affected but trade in services has taken a heavier toll. Some areas such as financial services and information and technology have achieved robust growth. Citing the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Mr Yau said that high-standard free trade agreements could strengthen the multilateral trading system, enhance regional trade co-operation and remove trade barriers. He emphasized that Hong Kong is ready to join the RCEP, pointing out that among the 15 economies of the RCEP, the city has direct free trade agreements with 13 members. Details here.

Secretary shares insights on trade landscape
   
Public urged to get COVID-19 vaccines

Feb 22, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam and a number of Principal officials took the lead to receive their first dose of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine. Mrs Lam appealed to the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19 early to protect themselves and others, with a view to safeguarding public health in the community and restoring the local economy and people's livelihood to normal. Mrs Lam also reiterated that the Hong Kong SAR Government will ensure the vaccines’ safety, efficacy and quality. “I need to assure everyone, especially given that we are on the first day of kick-starting this vaccination programme, I have to assure every Hong Kong citizen that the Government is very serious about the safety, efficacy and quality of vaccines. We would only use vaccines which meet those high standards before we put it into the Government’s COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.” Details here.

Public urged to get COVID-19 vaccines
   
First batch of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines arrive

Feb 19, 2021 - The first batch of one million doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines was delivered smoothly to Hong Kong on Feb 19 afternoon. This marks the beginning of a new stage in Hong Kong's fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, kick-starting the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme for the city's residents to receive vaccinations and reduce the spread of the virus in the community along with diminishing the impact of the disease on the society, economy and people's livelihood. Secretary for the Civil Servic Patrick Nip, and the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, were at Hong Kong International Airport to inspect the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in Hong Kong. Details here.

First batch of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines arrive
   
COVID-19 vaccination plan unveiled

Feb 18, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government will launch the citywide COVID-19 Vaccination Program from Feb 26 and five priority groups may make an appointment via the online booking system starting Feb 23. Announcing the program details today, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip said the first batch of one million doses of Sinovac vaccine will arrive in Hong Kong on Feb 19, while the first batch of one million doses of the Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine, manufactured in Germany, are expected to arrive by the end of this month. Noting that the vaccines will arrive in Hong Kong in batches, Mr Nip said there is a need for the Government to identify priority groups for vaccination with a view to taking forward the programme in a gradual and orderly manner. Healthcare staff and staff involved in anti-epidemic work, people aged 60 or above, residents and staff of residential care homes for the elderly and disabled, people providing essential public services as well as those providing cross-boundary transport or working at control points and ports are classified as priority groups. The Government will set up 29 Community Vaccination Centres in the 18 districts across the city. Among the vaccination centers, five will provide the Sinovac vaccine, while 24 will provide the Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine. Mr Nip encouraged members of the public to get vaccinated early. Details here.

COVID-19 vaccination plan unveiled
   
Emergency use of Sinovac vaccine authorized

Feb 18, 2021 - Hong Kong's Secretary for Food & Health (SFH) today authorized the COVID-19 vaccine by Sinovac Biotech (Hong Kong) for emergency use in Hong Kong in accordance with the Prevention & Control of Disease (Use of Vaccines) Regulation, following the recommendation of the Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Vaccines. It considered that under the current epidemic situation, the benefits of authorizing the use of Sinovac's vaccine to protect against COVID-19 outweigh the risks. To ensure that the relevant vaccine continues to fulfill the criteria of safety, efficacy and quality, conditions have been attached to the authorization, including requiring the applicant to execute a risk management program, continue to provide the latest clinical data and laboratory analysis certificates for each batch of vaccines, as well as timely updates of quality reports. The first batch of about one million doses of the Sinovac vaccine will be delivered to Hong Kong shortly. The Government will actively follow up on the emergency use authorization and supply schedule of the remaining vaccines already purchased and make arrangements for vaccine administration. It will also continue to adhere to the vaccine procurement strategy and make advance purchases of vaccines which fulfil the criteria of safety, efficacy and quality, including those that are still under development, to ensure the availability of different types of vaccines for the city. The Government added that its work in vaccine administration will be based on scientific evidence and adheres to the principles of openness and transparency to enhance the public's confidence in vaccines. Details here.

Emergency use of Sinovac vaccine authorized
   
Unemployment rises to 7%

Feb 18, 2021 - The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by 0.4 percentage points to 7%, the highest in close to 17 years, for the period between November and January compared to the period from October to December. The underemployment rate also increased by 0.4 percentage points to 3.8% during the period. Total employment decreased by 17,100 to 3,630,600 while the labour force fell by 9,400 to 3,884,000. Secretary for Labour & Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said the labor market was under notable pressure during the period due to the fourth wave of the local epidemic. Looking ahead, he said the labor market will remain under pressure in the near term as it will take time for economic activities to return to normal, following the easing of the fourth wave of the local epidemic. "Keeping the epidemic under control the soonest possible with the concerted efforts of the whole community is of pivotal importance to economic recovery and improvement of the labour market," he said, adding that the Government will continue to monitor the situation closely, he added. Details here.

Unemployment rises to 7%
   
Arbitration law changes proposed

Feb 17, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government will introduce legislative amendments to the Arbitration Ordinance. The amendment aims to fully implement the Supplemental Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards between the Mainland and the Hong Kong SAR signed between the Hong Kong SAR Government and the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China last year. The purpose of signing the supplemental arrangement is to bring it more fully in line with the current practice of international arbitration, including aligning the definition of the scope of arbitral awards with the prevalent international approach of "seat of arbitration" under the New York Convention. It also allows parties to make simultaneous applications to both the courts of the Mainland and the Hong Kong SAR for enforcement of an arbitral award. The Government noted that the implementation of the supplemental arrangement in full will be conducive to the promotion of the development of Hong Kong's legal and dispute resolution services. It will also further enhance Hong Kong's status as an international legal hub for legal, deal-making and dispute resolution services. The bill will be gazetted on Feb 19 and introduced into the Legislative Council on Feb 24. Details here.

Arbitration law changes proposed
   
Social distancing measures to be eased

Feb 16, 2021 - Some of the social distancing measures for catering businesses and scheduled premises in Hong Kong can be gradually relaxed due to the current COVID-19 epidemic situation, announced Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan. She pointed out that Hong Kong has seen a decline in the number of confirmed cases, with infections remaining at low double-digit figures and unlinked cases at single digits. Starting Feb 18, some of the previously closed premises can reopen and dine-in services at restaurants will be extended to 10 pm. These premises will have to comply with two additional requirements under the law. This include compulsory COVID-19 testing for staff every 14 days and requiring customers to use the “LeaveHomeSafe” mobile app or provide their names and phone numbers for contact-tracing purposes. Separately, a panel of experts unanimously recommended that Hong Kong approve the COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac Biotech.

Social distancing measures to be eased
   
“Hong Kong Welcomes U” portal updated

Feb 16, 2021 - The one-stop web portal “Hong Kong Welcomes U”, providing information for people considering a move to Hong Kong to work, invest or study, was recently updated. It has adopted a new web responsive design to facilitate viewers using different devices. The portal provides a wide range of information on employment, education, investment and immigration matters as well as social, recreational and cultural activities, along with a handy reference to a range of initiatives and support for those wanting to learn more about relocating to and living in Hong Kong. Details here.

“Hong Kong Welcomes U” portal updated
   
Chief Executive delivers Lunar New Year message

Feb 11, 2021 - On the eve of the Year of the Ox today, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivers a Lunar New Year message to Hong Kong citizens residing overseas, updating them on the latest developments in Hong Kong. Pointing out that Hong Kong is benefiting from the rapid development of the country, Mrs Lam said Hong Kong welcomes talents from all over the world. "In particular, we welcome overseas Hong Kong citizens to return to Hong Kong for development," said the Chief executive, adding that the city has implemented several measures to assist second generation of Hong Kong people who have moved overseas to return to Hong Kong. The city will also introduce a new Global STEM Professorship Scheme to attract innovation and technology talents from all over the world. "I welcome everyone to make use of these policies and come back to build Hong Kong together and contribute to our country," she said. Details here.

Chief Executive delivers Lunar New Year message
   
Inbound travel restrictions maintained

Feb 10, 2021 - As the global COVID-19 epidemic situation remains severe, the Hong Kong SAR Government will maintain the measure to restrict people who have stayed in the extremely high-risk specified places from boarding flights for Hong Kong as well as the 21-day compulsory quarantine requirement for people arriving in the city who have stayed in places outside China. Any person who have stayed in Group A extremely high-risk specified places (namely Brazil, Ireland, South Africa and the UK) for more than two hours on the day of boarding or during the 21 days before that day are not allowed to board for Hong Kong. Noting that the measures are very stringent and would inevitably affect the return journeys of a number of Hong Kong residents in those places, the Government said it is necessary to extend the relevant arrangement to protect the health of the overall community in Hong Kong by firmly guarding against the importation of the new virus variants. For the very high-risk Group B specified places (including the US), and the medium- to high-risk Group C specified places, all people arriving in Hong Kong, either via the airport or land boundary control points, who have stayed in places outside China on the day of arrival in the city or during the 21 days before that day have to undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days in designated quarantine hotels. People arriving in the city who have stayed in Group B specified places also have to present prior to boarding proof of a negative result of a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted within 72 hours before the aircraft's scheduled time of departure. Details here.

Inbound travel restrictions maintained
   
"LeaveHomeSafe" mobile app at all government buildings and offices

Feb 10, 2021 - Starting Mar 1, all employees of the Hong Kong SAR Government and members of the public will be required to use the LeaveHomeSafe mobile app and scan the QR code before entering government buildings or offices. People can also choose to register their names, contact numbers and the date and time of their visits before entering the relevant premises for necessary contact tracing if a confirmed case is found. The Government said it decided to implement such an arrangement at all government buildings and offices with a view to better assisting the Centre for Health Protection in epidemiological investigations and protecting the safety of employees and the public. Details here.

"LeaveHomeSafe" mobile app at all government buildings and offices
   
Restricted area testing effective

Feb 9, 2021 - Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam today said the compulsory testing operations in the specified restricted areas have been effective in combatting COVID-19. Ahead of this morning’s Executive Council meeting, Mrs Lam explained that 25 such operations have been conducted with the use of a restriction-testing declaration (RTD). “It’s a very staff-intensive operation. It’s also done as expeditiously as possible in order to reduce the disruption on the residents concerned. It has proven to be effective,” she said. The RTD operations will continue until Feb 10, the day before Lunar New Year’s Eve. Barring unforeseeable circumstances, no RTD operations will be conducted during the Chinese New Year holiday. The Chief Executive also urged people to keep social and family gatherings to a minimum during the holidays. Details here.

Restricted area testing effective
   
Dual nationality stance explained

Feb 9, 2021 - Chinese nationals who have dual nationality are not eligible for foreign consular protection in Hong Kong, said Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam in response to media enquiries about visits by consuls to their nationals with dual nationality in the city. She said that people should refer to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties for such matters. “Where a person has dual nationality, which is accepted and recognized in some places, not all places - certainly not recognised in the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China - then if that particular person is in one of the places or countries that does not recognize dual nationality and possesses one of his national statuses, then he will not be eligible for this sort of consular protection, including consular visits,” she said. Mrs Lam added that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in 1996 decided that those with dual nationalities will be regarded as Chinese nationals in Hong Kong, and would not be eligible for consular protection. The Chief Executive also reiterated that the UK Government’s recent move to grant the right of abode to British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passport holders has breached the understanding reached at the time of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Details here.

Dual nationality stance explained
   
New waste blueprint unveiled

Feb 8, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government released today the Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035, which outlines the strategies, goals and measures to tackle the challenge of waste management up to 2035. Secretary for the Environment KS Wong said the Government will assume a more proactive role, such as further promoting various policies and legislation, in particular the municipal solid waste charging initiative that would serve at the forefront of effectively promoting waste reduction and recycling. It will reinforce support for the recycling sector to enhance the effectiveness of transforming waste into resources and establish a circular economy. It will also expand the local waste-to-resources or energy capacities by setting up the required infrastructure in a timely manner to handle waste in a more sustainable and low-carbon manner in order to achieve the long-term goal of zero landfill. Details here.

New waste blueprint unveiled
   
Exempt traveler measures tightened

Feb 5, 2021 - Based on the latest COVID-19 prevention risk assessment, the Hong Kong SAR Government will tighten the testing and isolation arrangements for air crew members, sea crew members of goods vessels entering Hong Kong for cargo operations and other exempted people starting Feb 20. All air crew members will be subject to the “test-and-hold” arrangement to undergo testing and wait for the result at Hong Kong International Airport or a designated location. Those who have stayed in any places outside China during the 21 days prior to arrival in Hong Kong, but have not stayed in Group A specified places (currently Brazil, Ireland, South Africa and the UK), must self-isolate at the airport hotel arranged by airlines until their next duty flight after undergoing testing. Locally based crew who wish to leave the airport area must self-isolate at a designated quarantine hotel for 14 days before entering the community. They are also subject to further testing as well as seven-day medical surveillance thereafter. Freight crew who are subject to closed-loop management in segregation from the local community during their layover in Anchorage, Alaska in the US, will be exempted from self-isolation at a designated quarantine hotel. They will still be subject to 21-day medical surveillance. Crew of goods vessels which have called at the ports of any places outside China during the 21 days prior to arrival in Hong Kong, but have not stayed in Group A specified places, must possess a negative SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test result done at an accredited laboratory or a laboratory recognized by the Government within 72 hours prior to the vessel’s scheduled time of arrival in Hong Kong. Understanding the impact on airline’ and shipping companies’ operations, and that on the crew members to be brought about by the new arrangements, the Government appeals to the industry’s understanding of the need to tighten the relevant exemption conditions. Details here.

Exempt traveller measures tightened
   
Foreign currency reserves up

Feb 5, 2021 - Hong Kong's foreign currency reserve assets rose to US$493.5 billion in January from December's US$491.8 billion. This represents over six times the currency in circulation or about 48% of Hong Kong dollar M3. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts in January. Details here.

Foreign currency reserves up
   
Smooth start for "LeaveHomeSafe" app pilot program

Feb 4, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government said that a pilot program under which the "LeaveHomeSafe" mobile app is used at government buildings or offices ran smoothly on its first day. The pilot program launched today aims to remind government employees and the public to use the mobile app at the entrances of government buildings or offices, where temporary service stations are set up to assist people to install the app. It will also better assist the Centre for Health Protection in epidemiological investigations and further protect the health and safety of government employees and the public. The app's usage will be progressively extended to more government buildings and office. The Government hopes to further encourage its employees and the public to establish a habit of recording their whereabouts during the fight against the epidemic. Details here.

Smooth start for "LeaveHomeSafe" app pilot program
   
New Smart ID replacement timetable set

Feb 3, 2021 - The Immigation Department today announced that the extension of the application period period for residents born in 1962 or 1963 to apply for a new smart Hong Kong identity card to Feb 20. To reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 due to crowd gatherings, the department suspended the services at nine Smart Identity Card Replacement Centres from Dec 2, 2020 to Jan 31, 2021. Due to the service suspension, some people born in 1962 or 1963 may have been unable to apply for new identity cards within the previously announced application period. The amendment order extends the application period for those people. The call-up program for people born in 1970 to 1972 previously announced remains unchanged. The application period will last until April 30. People born in 1973 to 1976 should apply for a new smart identity card from Feb 22 to Jul 9, while those born between 2005 and 2007 and from 2012 to 2018 have to apply for their new identity cards between May 3 and Sep 18. To avoid crowd gatherings, the department encouraged applicants to make appointment bookings online, via its mobile application or the 24-hour telephone booking hotline. Details here.

New Smart ID replacement timetable set
   
Social distancing measures extended

Feb 3, 2021 - Social distancing measures currently in place in Hong Kong will be extended through Feb 17, in view of the serious COVID-19 epidemic situation. Dine-in service in restaurants must end at 6pm, with no more than two people seated together at one table. Bars and pubs remain close. Specified outdoor sports premise for activities involving little physical contacts, such as athletic tracks, tennis courts, golf courses, cycling parks, sea activities centres and climbing walls, will reopen starting Feb 4, subject to relevant requirements and restrictions. The prohibition on group gatherings of more than two people in public places and the mandatory mask-wearing requirement also remain in force. Details here.

Social distancing measures extended
   
Striving for zero virus cases

Feb 2, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam today said the Hong Kong SAR Government’s goal of setting up restricted areas for mandatory COVID-19 testing is to achieve zero infections in the community. Responding to media inquiries ahead of this morning's Executive Council meeting, Mrs Lam explained that many preventive measures have been implemented to halt further transmission of the virus in the city. “In terms of public health, a lot of the work done is preventive. In fact, to have zero transmission, zero infection is the best ever public health achievement that could be made by every authority,” she said. Mrs Lam also pointed out that restricted areas for mandatory testing have been set up based on a number of factors and such operations will persist because they are effective. The Chief Executive also said one of the COVID-19 vaccines procured by the Government is expected to arrive in Hong Kong by the end of the month. Details here.

Striving for zero virus cases
   
December retail sales down 13.2%

Feb 2, 2021 - December's value of total retail sales, provisionally estimated at HK$31.4 billion (US$4 billion), fell 13.2% year-on-year. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales decreased 14% year-on-year. For 2020 as a whole, the value of total retail sales was provisionally estimated at HK$326.5 billion (US$41.8 billion), down 24.3% in value and 25.5% in volume compared with 2019. The Hong Kong SAR Government said retail sales saw a widened decline in December amid the fourth wave of the local epidemic and the resulting social distancing measures. For 2020 as a whole, the volume of retail sales fell 25.5%, the largest annual decline on record, reflecting the severe blow to consumption-related activities caused by the epidemic. Noting that the retail trade business environment will remain challenging in the near term amid frozen inbound tourism and the ongoing local epidemic, the Government said it would be pivotal for the community as a whole to spare no effort to fight the virus and keep the epidemic under control to foster the revival of the retail business and overall economy. Details here.

December retail sales down 13.2%
   
Public lauded for co-operating with compulsory testing operations

Feb 1, 2021 - Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam today thanked the vast majority of the members of the public for co-operating with the compulsory measures adopted by the Hong Kong SAR Government to prevent and control the spread of the epidemic, emphasizing that the Government will take stringent enforcement action against offenders.
“All the compulsory measures taken by the Government amid the epidemic are necessary and with legal basis," she said. Expressing her heartfelt thanks to members of the public for their understanding and co-operation, Mrs Lam added that various government departments will continue to take stock of their experience for the benefit of the operations, with a view to minimizing inconvenience caused to the residents and suppressing the epidemic effectively as soon as possible, so that economic activities and people’s daily lives can return to normal gradually,” Mrs Lam said. Details here.

Public lauded for co-operating with compulsory testing operations
   
European Union’s export control mechanism for vaccines monitored

Jan 30, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today said it is gravely concerned about the European Union's (EU) announcement of implementing an export control mechanism, and if necessary, banning the export of COVID-19 vaccines. The EU's announcement stated that it will strive to ensure the new regulation does not affect the exports under advance purchase agreements already entered into between vaccine manufacturers and third parties. The Government has proactively followed up with the vaccine manufacturers it has advance purchase agreements with to ensure that the vaccines procured can be supplied to Hong Kong as scheduled. The Government will closely monitor the development of the situation. It will also continue to negotiate purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers from around the world and the Mainland to obtain more supplies of vaccines which meet the criteria of safety, efficacy and quality, and strive for the early supply of the vaccines to Hong Kong. Details here.

European Union’s export control mechanism for vaccines monitored
   
COVID-19 vaccines website launched

Jan 29, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today launched a one-stop COVID-19 Vaccination Programme website which provides official and up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccines. The designated website gives accurate and first-hand information about COVID-19 vaccines procured by the Government and the vaccination program as well as clarifies false information through text, infographics and multimedia content. The website will also provide detailed information on the vaccination program after its formal launch and will be linked to the online booking system where people can reserve their vaccination slot at a selected location. The Government noted that early inoculation with safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines by the public is a very important measure in the prevention and control of the epidemic and crucial to the resumption of a more normal way of life and economic activities in the city. Details here.

COVID-19 vaccines website launched
   
GDP contracts in 2020

Jan 29, 2021 - Hong Kong's GDP fell by 6.1% last year, due to the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to advance estimates. GDP fell by 3% in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2020 on a year-on-year comparison, narrowing slightly from the 3.6% decline in the third quarter. The Hong Kong economy recovered further in the fourth quarter of 2020, but at a slower pace due to the fourth wave of the local epidemic. Consumption- and tourism-related sectors were particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, in contrast with the active financial market activity stayed robust and strengthening of exports and imports of goods. The Hong Kong economy is expected to see positive growth for 2021 as a whole, but the economic situation in the first half of the year will remain challenging and the degree and speed of recovery is subject to a host of uncertainties, especially those about the pandemic situation. The revised figures on GDP and more detailed statistics for the fourth quarter and the whole year of 2020, as well as the real GDP growth forecast for 2021 will be released on Feb 24, 2021 when the 2021-22 Budget is announced. Details here.

GDP contracts in 2020
   
BN(O) passport changes explained

Jan 29, 2021 - With effect from Jan 31, British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passport passports cannot be used for immigration clearance and will not be recognized as any form of proof of identity in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong SAR Government said the Chinese and British governments reached a consensus long ago on how to deal with the issue of Hong Kong residents holding BN(O) passports and exchanged memoranda on the understanding in 1984. In its memorandum, the UK clearly pledged not to confer the right of abode in the UK on holders of the BN(O) passport who are Chinese nationals in Hong Kong. The current move of the British side has substantively changed the nature of BN(O) passport, and is a fundamental violation of its pledge in its memorandum. The Hong Kong SAR Government stated that as the UK breaches its commitment in the first place, it is legitimate to take countermeasures in response. The non-recognition of the BN(O) passport as a valid travel document is in no conflict with the Chinese Government's commitment in its memorandum, as well as the explanations of questions concerning the implementation in the Hong Kong SAR of the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China given by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Details here.

BN(O) passport changes explained
   
Concerted effort needed in virus fight

Jan 27, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government is working at full steam to prepare its COVID-19 vaccination program, with the goal of arranging vaccination for the public as soon as possible according to priority groups and upon approval of vaccines for use and their arrival in Hong Kong, said Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam. The Government is approaching a fourth vaccine supplier in the hope of purchasing a fourth type of vaccine developed from a different technology platform. The Chief Executive also highlighted Hong Kong's anti-epidemic strategy in eight major areas, including professional leadership, application of technology, information transparency, precise testing, and social distancing measures. In battling this unprecedented global pandemic, Mrs Lam urged the public to continue its support for this ongoing concerted efforts in the anti-epidemic work in a proactive manner and with unwavering confidence. Details here.

Concerted effort needed in virus fight
   
Switzerland, UAE listed as high risk places

Jan 27, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today it will tighten the measures for travellers who have stayed in Switzerland or the United Arab Emirates within 21 days before they board for Hong Kong. With the severe global pandemic situation, and the number of new cases recently reaching a record high of over five million cases in a week in early January, Hong Kong cannot afford to drop its guard on entry prevention and control measures. Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates will be placed under the the very high-risk Group B specified places. People arriving in Hong Kong who have stayed in Group B specified places on the day they board or during the 21 days before that day are required to present before boarding proof of a negative result of a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted within 72 hours before the aircraft's scheduled time of departure. They also have to present the confirmation of a room reservation in a designated quarantine hotel in Hong Kong for not less than 21 nights starting on the traveller's day of arrival. The relevant specifications will be effective from February 2 until further notice. Details here.

Switzerland, UAE listed as high risk places
   
Chief Executive reports to state leaders

Jan 27, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam conducted the annual reporting of work to President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang separately via video conferencing today, during which she reported to them the latest economic, social and political situation in Hong Kong. Mrs Lam expressed gratitude to the state leaders for fully acknowledging the work of the Hong Kong SAR Government in the past year, and for the care and support from the central government to Hong Kong on the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic, economic development and improvement of people's livelihoods. She pointed out that Hong Kong experienced a challenging year in which the city's economy and livelihoods were hard hit by the epidemic, but that it essentially functioned normally with the financial system remaining stable. Mrs Lam said the Hong Kong SAR Government's top priority at present is to curb the epidemic to protect people's health and restore economic activities. Mrs Lam, on behalf of each of the Hong Kong SAR Government officials, reiterated that they will continue to discharge their duty to safeguard national security without fear. Reporting on the series of measures involving the central government's support as set out in the 2020 Policy Address, the Chief Executive said she will lead her team to leverage Hong Kong's unique advantages to better integrate into the nation's overall development through its participation in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, thereby advancing the economy and improving livelihoods. Details here.

Chief Executive reports to state leaders
   
Exchange Fund gains US$25.3 billion

Jan 27, 2021 - Hong Kong's Exchange Fund recorded an investment income of HK$197.8 billion (US$25.3 billion) last year, with an investment return of 4.4%, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced today. Chief Executive of HKMA Mr Eddie Yue said 2020 was a year full of unexpected twists and turns to many investors, adding that COVID-19 has posed significant challenges to the world economy. However, driven by the ultra-loose monetary policies implemented by major central banks and a series of relief measures launched by various governments, asset markets rebounded quickly from sharp corrections, with a number of equity markets reaching record highs during the year. For the year as a whole, the fund achieved a decent return on its equity and bond investments. Looking ahead, he said the main focus for 2021 will be the timing and pace of recovery of different economies. Details here.

Exchange Fund gains US$25.3 billion
   
Green bond offering successful

Jan 27, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today announced the successful offering of US$2.5 billion of green bonds under the Government Green Bond Programme. The offering, comprising US$1 billion 5-year, US$1 billion 10-year and US$500 million 30-year green bonds, will build a comprehensive benchmark curve for potential issuers in Hong Kong and the region. The 30-year tranche is also the first 30-year green bond to be issued by an Asian government, and the longest tenor to be issued by the Hong Kong SAR Government. Proceeds raised under the program will be used to fund projects that will improve the environment and facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the successful offering demonstrates investor confidence in Hong Kong’s long-term credit strengths and economic fundamentals. “The issuance will help catalyze further growth of the green and sustainable bond market, particularly leveraging on Hong Kong's strengths as a leading green finance hub in the region.” Details here.

Green bond offering successful
   
Social distancing measures extended through Feb 3

Jan 26, 2021 - In view of the serious COVID-19 epidemic situation, existing social distancing measures in Hong Kong will be extended through Feb 3. Dine-in service in restaurants must end at 6 pm, with no more than two people seated together at one table. Bars, pubs and other public venues remain closed. Group gatherings in public places are restricted to two people with mandatory mask-wearing requirement on public transport and in specified public places remaining in force. Details here.

Social distancing measures extended through Feb 3
   
Hong Kong's gateway role

Jan 26, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Hong Kong has long been a gateway between Mainland China and the world and hopes to play a constructive role between the US and China by leveraging on the city's unique advantages under "One Country, Two Systems". Addressing the 2021 Hong Kong Forum on US-China Relations today, Mrs Lam pointed out that Hong Kong and the US have enjoyed longstanding success in business, trade and finance, adding that the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is one of the city's largest international chamber. "We welcome US businesses and individuals to continue contributing to and benefiting from Hong Kong's promising prospects," she said. Mrs Lam said Hong Kong is set to benefit from China's national development and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area will be an excellent entry point. "Beyond innovation and technology, Hong Kong will drive financial services for the region, given our longstanding strengths in financial services, our ability to bridge East and West and the unmatched depth and quality of our professional services," she said. Details here.

Hong Kong's gateway role
   
Restriction-testing declaration to combat COVID-19

Jan 26, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the Hong Kong SAR Government may use the restriction-testing declaration for restricted areas again to combat COVID-19 in the future. Speaking ahead of this morning’s Executive Council meeting, Mrs Lam said the operation taken at the restricted area in Jordan has been an effective tool against the virus by identifying 13 confirmed cases from more than 7,000 compulsory virus tests among residents living in about 150 buildings. Acknowledging that there were areas for improvement following a review of the operation, Mrs Lam said enforcement is an integral part of the operation and urged the public to promote compliance to restriction-testing declaration. Details here.

Restriction-testing declaration to combat COVID-19
   
COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use

Jan 25, 2021 - Hong Kong has authorized the COVID-19 vaccine by Fosun Pharma/BioNTech for emergency use in Hong Kong, following the advice and recommendations of the Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Vaccines. The Advisory Panel considers that, under the current epidemic situation, the benefits of authorizing the use of the COVID-19 vaccine by Fosun Pharma/BioNTech for protecting against COVID-19 outweigh the risks. The first batch of one million doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive Hong Kong from Germany in late February. Details here.

COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use
   
Restriction testing declaration lifted

Jan 25, 2021 - Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the restricted area set up in Jordan district for 48 hours was for the purpose of conducting compulsory COVID-19 testing. Explaining the scope of the operation to the media on Jan 24, Mrs Lam said there is a difference between what the Hong Kong SAR Government is doing and what people normally refer to as a “city lockdown” in other parts of the world. As the affected residents are not allowed to leave their home for up to 48 hours, the Government has provided all the needed assistance, including the provisions of food packs and other supplies. The order was lifted once the compulsory testing for the entire area has been completed. Details here.

Restriction testing declaration lifted
   
Internship programs to be launched

Jan 24, 2021 - Two internship programs will be launched to create some 200 full-time entry-level job opportunities for young people in the creative industries and telecommunications sectors. The Future International Talent program and the Telecommunications Opportunities Program will work in collaboration with six international chambers of commerce in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG). Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau thanked the six international chambers and the HKFYG for their partnership and commitment towards the nurturing of talents in Hong Kong. “The two programs will also provide much-needed job opportunities for our young people at this difficult time,” he said. More information on the internship will be announced in due course, with recruitment scheduled to start within the first quarter of this year. Details here.

Internship programs to be launched
   
Boarding restrictions and compulsory quarantine requirement maintained

Jan 23, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today that in view of the developments of the global COVID-19 epidemic situation, it is necessary to maintain restrictions for persons who have stayed in the extremely high-risk Group A specified places from boarding Hong Kong-bound flights. Group A specific places include Brazil, Ireland, South Africa and the UK, which have seen the emergence of different new virus variants with high transmissibility. The Government is also maintaining the 21-day compulsory quarantine requirement for persons arriving at Hong Kong who have stayed in places outside China. Persons arriving at Hong Kong who have stayed in the very high-risk Group B specified places, including the US, also have to present proof of a negative result of a nucleic acid test for COVID-19 conducted within 72 hours before the scheduled time of departure of the aircraft. A Government spokesman reiterated, "The Government recognizes that maintaining the above stringent requirement may inevitably affect the return journey of a number of Hong Kong residents in these places. However, as the new virus variants are more transmissible, and the epidemic situation in the four places mentioned above remain severe, it is necessary for the Government to firmly guard against the importation of COVID-19 cases in order to protect the well-being of Hong Kong residents." Details on the grouping of specified places and their respective boarding and compulsory quarantine requirements can be found at www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/high-risk-places.html. Details here.

Boarding restrictions and compulsory quarantine requirement maintained
   
Consumer prices dip 0.7% in December

Jan 21, 2021 - Overall consumer prices in December fell 0.7% year-on-year, larger than the corresponding decrease of 0.2% in November. Netting out the effects of all the Hong Kong SAR Government's one-off relief measures, the year-on-year rate of change in December’s underlying inflation rate was 0.0%, smaller than November’s 0.3%. This was mainly due to the smaller increases in the costs for meals bought away from home and the enlarged decreases in private housing rentals. Looking ahead, overall price pressures should remain very mild in the near term as global and local economic conditions are still challenging amid the continued threat of COVID-19. Details here.

Consumer prices dip 0.7% in December
   
Social distancing measures to be extended

Jan 20, 2021 - Due to the latest COVID-19 pandemic situation, social distancing measures in Hong Kong will be extended until at least Jan 27. Dine-in service in restaurants must end at 6 pm, with no more than two people seated together at one table. Bars and pubs, along with other public venues, remain close. The prohibition on group gatherings of more than two people in public places and the mandatory mask-wearing requirement also remain in force. The work-from-home arrangements for civil servants would also be extended until Jan 27. Details here.

Social distancing measures to be extended
   
Boarding restrictions for Brazil and Ireland

Jan 20, 2020 - The Hong Kong SAR Government announced that it will restrict people who have stayed in Brazil or Ireland from boarding flights for Hong Kong as cases caused by the new virus variant with high transmissibility were found in the two countries recently. Under the specifications that will take effect from Jan 23, all people who have stayed in Brazil or Ireland for more than two hours on the day of boarding or during the 21 days before that day will not be allowed to board for Hong Kong. The boarding restrictions for the UK and South Africa will also continue to be maintained. Details here.

Boarding restrictions for Brazil and Ireland
   
Hong Kong a premier fund hub

Jan 19, 2021 - Hong Kong boosted its status as Asia's premier fund hub with the introduction of the open-ended fund company and limited partnership fund regimes in 2018 and 2020, respectively, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan at the Asian Financial Forum today. The partnership between the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and MSCI also reinforces Hong Kong’s position as a premier risk management center of choice. The Financial Secretary said Hong Kong’s gateway role is also primed to grow, thanks to the enormous opportunities arising from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The Wealth Management Connect scheme will boost product diversity and asset-allocation options, while vastly expanding the sector's prospective market. The upsurge in cross-boundary funds will, in turn, consolidate Hong Kong’s position as the premier global hub for the offshore Renminbi business. Details here.

Hong Kong a premier fund hub
   
Unemployment rate at 6.6%

Jan 19, 2021 - The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by 0.3 percentage point to 6.6%, the highest in 16 years, for the period between October and December 2020 compared to the previous three-month period. The underemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.4% for the period. Secretary for Labour & Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said the labor market deteriorated due to the fourth wave of the local epidemic which started in the latter part of November. Looking ahead, Dr Law said the labor market will remain under notable pressure in the near term. The Government has rolled out measures to provide further support to hard-hit sectors and will continue to monitor the situation closely, he added. Details here.

Unemployment rate at 6.6%
   
Advisory panel recommends COVID-19 vaccine

Jan 18, 2021 - The Advisory Panel on COVID-19 Vaccines recommended authorizing the vaccine developed by BioNTech in collaboration with Fosun Pharma for emergency use in Hong Kong. Panel Convenor Prof Wallace Lau explained that the panel has looked into the documents and data related to the safety, efficacy and quality of the BioNTech vaccine and agreed that the benefits of using it outweigh the risks. The panel will advise the HKSAR Government to take follow-up action or even stop using the vaccine if it is proved to have greater risks, he said. Details here.

Advisory panel recommends COVID-19 vaccine
   
Asian Financial Forum opens

Jan 18, 2021 - Hong Kong’s fundamentals remain strong amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Delivering the opening address at the 14th Asian Financial Forum, Mrs Lam said, “Hong Kong’s financial system has demonstrated its strengths and resilience. Our financial markets continue to operate orderly, and that includes the Linked Exchange Rate System.” With its unique advantages as the international financial center of China and one of the world’s major financial cities, Hong Kong will continue to see enormous opportunities when the pandemic is over, she added. Chairing a plenary session during the forum, Secretary for Financial Services & the Treasury Christopher Hui shared insights on the role of the financial services sector in contributing to the bolstering of economic recovery and the opportunities for financial services in the new economic landscape. The two-day forum also featured various sessions including the Fintech Showcase, FintechHK Start-up Salon, InnoVenture Salon, Deal Flow Matchmaking Session and Fireside Chat in a virtual format. More than 5,000 policymakers, financial experts, business leaders, economists, investors and entrepreneurs attended the event, co-organized by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Details here.

Asian Financial Forum opens
 
Asian Financial Forum opens
   
Government strongly opposes US report

Jan 15, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today strongly objects to the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s newly released 2020 annual report. In a statement, the Hong Kong SAR Government said safeguarding national security through legislation is in line with international practice. Contrary to the erroneous allegations that the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR undermines the "one country, two systems" framework, the country has the right to legislate for this matter under “one country, two systems". Every country has laws and duty to safeguard its national security and sovereignty. The allegation that the offenses under the National Security Law are vaguely defined is simply untrue. The National Security Law clearly stipulates four types of offenses endangering national security and the penalties. Law-abiding people, including Hong Kong residents and overseas tourists/investors, will not unwittingly violate the law. At the same time, the National Security Law contains specific provisions upholding Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms under the Basic Law as well as the relevant provisions of international covenants on human rights as applied to Hong Kong. Details here.

Government strongly opposes US report
   
WTO trade dispute request explained

Jan 14, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today requested the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish a panel to consider a dispute with respect to the US' new requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau also wrote to the US Trade Representative to inform the US that the Hong Kong SAR has taken further action against the US under the WTO mechanism. “The US' unilateral and irresponsible attempt to weaken Hong Kong's status as a separate customs territory, which is conferred by the Basic Law, is highly inappropriate," Mr Yau said. “Such a move also confuses the market and undermines the rules-based multilateral trading system. Hong Kong's special status is a basic principle under ‘one country, two systems’, and the Hong Kong SAR Government will do its utmost to safeguard it. The Hong Kong SAR Government requested on October 30, 2020, consultations with the US under the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism. However, the US' response is disappointing. It is necessary for us to take further action against the US in accordance with the mechanism to defend Hong Kong's interests.” Mr Yau emphasized that Hong Kong’s special status has been widely recognized and respected by the international community and the city’s economic and trade status is on par with that of other WTO members. He added the “Made in Hong Kong” marking on Hong Kong products has been accepted internationally for many years. This not only conforms to Hong Kong's status as a separate customs territory and complies with WTO rules, but also provides consumers with clear and accurate information on product origin. Details here.

WTO trade dispute request explained
   
Vaccination plan set for Feb

Jan 13, 2021 - Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan said that members of the public can get vaccinated through the government vaccination programs free of charge from February. Prof Chan told lawmakers today that the Hong Kong SAR Government’s goal is to provide vaccines for the majority of the population within this year. Taking into consideration experts' views, the government will vaccinate priority groups first, including groups which have higher risks of coming into contact with the COVID-19 virus, groups which have greater mortality rates after contracting the disease, and groups which may easily transmit the virus to others, the vulnerable or weak if infected. Prof Chan said the government is reviewing other target groups which may need to receive vaccination early due to their work nature or other needs, including those who are particularly crucial to Hong Kong's infrastructure and operations. Details here.

Vaccination plan set for Feb
   
Objection to proposed WTO modifications

Jan 11, 2021 - As one of the 21 Parties to the revised Agreement on Government Procurement of the World Trade Organization (WTO GPA), Hong Kong notified the WTO Committee on Government Procurement (GP Committee) of its objection to the modification proposed by the US to its commitments under the Agreement. “Hong Kong considers that the US’s proposed modification amounts to a withdrawal of its coverage commitment from the WTO GPA and will result in a reduced list of products being subject to the WTO GPA rules, thereby affecting the business opportunities of Hong Kong suppliers to the US government procurement market. Hong Kong is also concerned that it may affect the balance of rights and obligations among Parties under the WTO GPA,” a Hong Kong SAR Government spokesman said. Details here.

Objection to proposed WTO modifications
   
Independent judiciary crucial

Jan 11, 2021 - Speaking at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2021 today, Chief Justice Andrew Cheung pointed out that judicial independence means the Judiciary, the courts and the judges, when discharging their judicial functions, must not be subject to improper extraneous pressure or influence. Attempts to exert undue pressure on judges by means such as threats of violence or doxxing are as futile as they are reprehensible. The appropriate way to question a court’s decision is by means of appeal or review. He said people must have faith in Hong Kong common law system and allow the appeals process to run its course. He also explained that there are built-in features in Hong Kong’s judicial system that ensure that the Judiciary and judges are accountable to the public for their works. Details here.

Independent judiciary crucial
   
Judicial independence guaranteed

Jan 11, 2021 - Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said that the holding of the opening of the legal year at the Court of Final Appeal, with its live broadcast to the public, is testimony to Hong Kong’s strong legal traditions and the resilience and tenacity of the legal community. Speaking at the Ceremonial Opening of the Legal Year 2021 today, Ms Cheng reiterated that the Basic Law guarantees judicial independence, free from any interference. She also highlighted the various initiatives taken by the Department of Justice, including the development of LawTech and facilitating the studies of pertinent legal issues stemming from the increasing use of emerging technology. Details here.

Judicial independence guaranteed
   
New Chief Justice takes office

Jan 11, 2021 - The new Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal, Andrew Cheung, was sworn in at Government House today. Mr Cheung said that he would endeavor to maintain the independence and impartiality of the Judiciary and safeguard the rule of law. Congratulating Mr Cheung on his assumption of office, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam pledged her continued support for the Judiciary. “The rule of law is the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s success, and judicial independence is the linchpin in upholding the rule of law,” Mrs Lam said, adding that Hong Kong’s courts, as stipulated by the Basic Law, shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. Mrs Lam is confident that under Mr Cheung’s leadership, the Judiciary will continue to be a bulwark of the “one country, two systems” policy and Hong Kong’s judges will continue to safeguard the law and administer justice without fear or favor. Details here.

New Chief Justice takes office
   
Government safeguards national security

Jan 10, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government refuted the joint statement by the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada and the UK, and the US Secretary of State, stating that it is the Hong Kong SAR's constitutional responsibilities to safeguard national security. Arrests made are based on evidence and strictly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations. "As provided for in the Basic Law, the Department of Justice of the HKSAR Government makes independent prosecutorial decisions based on evidence, applicable laws and in accordance with its Prosecution Code, free from any interference. Any person who is prosecuted has the right to a fair trial by our independent courts, and the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused committed a crime beyond reasonable doubt before there can be a conviction." Details here.

Government safeguards national security
   
Belt and Road meeting held

Jan 8, 2021 - A roundtable meeting on the Belt & Road Initiative was held online today to promote co-operation between state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and Hong Kong's business and professional services sector. Speaking at the event, Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said that Hong Kong, as a comprehensive functional platform for the initiative, is best placed to support SOEs in their Belt-Road projects. Hong Kong's power on the financial, legal, and management fronts could go hand-in-hand with the strengths of SOEs, said Mr Yau, who added that the city, as the prime functional platform for the Belt & Road Initiative, could support them in investment and financing, logistics, commerce and trade by capitalising on its extensive international networks and strengths in the professional services and innovation and technology. Noting that the epidemic had led to a new landscape in the international economic and trade arena as well as a new normalcy, Mr Yau emphasised that co-operation of the international community is important to controlling the epidemic and relaunching the economy.The meeting was joined by more than 100 representatives from 25 SOEs, with nearly 100 enterprises or members from more than 10 professional services bodies in Hong Kong viewing it online. Details here.

Belt and Road meeting held
   
Hong Kong-ASEAN pacts to take full effect

Jan 8, 2021 - The Hong Kong Government today announced that the Cambodia portion of the free trade agreement and the investment agreement between Hong Kong and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will take effect on Feb 12, signifying that both agreements signed between Hong Kong and the 10 member states of ASEAN will come into full effect. Hong Kong enterprises and service providers will enjoy the full benefits as committed to by all 10 ASEAN member states under the agreements. Their business opportunities in ASEAN markets will be greatly enhanced. Forged in 2017, the agreements have entered into force gradually since June 2019. Hong Kong has signed eight free trade agreements with 20 economies. With the free trade agreement between Hong Kong and ASEAN coming into full effect, all the four free trade agreements signed in the current term of the Hong Kong SAR Government will have taken effect. They are the free trade agreements signed with Macau, Georgia, Australia and the 10 ASEAN member states. Details here.

Hong Kong-ASEAN pacts to take full effect
   
Travel restrictions maintained

Jan 7, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government announced today that, in view of the global COVID-19 pandemic situation,the boarding restrictions for the UK and South Africa as well as the 21-day compulsory quarantine arrangements for people arriving in Hong Kong from places outside China will be maintained. Currently, any person who has stayed in the either of the places for more than two hours on the day of boarding or during the 21 days before that day are not allowed to board for Hong Kong. All people arriving in Hong Kong who have stayed in places outside China on the day of arrival in Hong Kong or during the 21 days before that day have to undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days in designated quarantine hotels. The Government said it recognizes such a requirement is very stringent and may inevitably affect the return journey of a number of Hong Kong residents in the UK or South Africa. However, it has the responsibility to guard against the importation of COVID-19 cases, and the new virus variant in particular, to protect the well-being of Hong Kong residents. Details here.

Travel restrictions maintained
   
Government safeguards national security

Jan 7, 2021 - The Hong Kong SAR Government today said it has a constitutional responsibility to safeguard national security. The National Security Law, or any law in the Hong Kong SAR, applies equally to every person in Hong Kong and no one is above the law. Hong Kong prides itself on the rule of law and law enforcement agencies are duty-bound to take action against unlawful acts, regardless of the political background of the suspects. Arrests made are based on evidence and strictly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations. Any person who is prosecuted has the right to a fair trial by the city's independent courts. Enshrined in the Basic Law, the courts of the Hong Kong SAR enjoy judicial power independently, including that of final adjudication, free from any interference. Details here.

Government safeguards national security
   
Rule of law is cornerstone of community

Jan 6, 2021 - The rule of law, the cornerstone of the Hong Kong community, is not just about being conducive to business and investment, said outgoing Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma. “It also includes the recognition and enforcement of those rights we call human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Mr Ma. “The importance we place on rights and freedoms is a fundamental feature of the Basic Law.” Delivering remarks on his Farewell Sitting today, Mr Ma said the independence of the judiciary, which is at the heart of the rule of law, is the guiding concept that underlines the way judges discharge their constitutional responsibilities. “The independence of the judiciary means in essence the responsibility and duty imposed on the courts to adjudicate on the law and on legal disputes fairly, evenly and strictly in accordance with legal principle and the spirit of the law,” he said. Details here.

Rule of law is cornerstone of community
   
Police operation explained

Jan 6, 2021 - The operation by Hong Kong Police today targets active elements who are suspected to have planned to paralyze the Hong Kong SAR Government, said Secretary for Security John Lee this afternoon. He stressed that the Hong Kong SAR Government will not tolerate such illegal acts and must take stringent enforcement action. Details here.

Police operation explained
   
Rule of law to be upheld

Jan 5, 2021 - The Judiciary will continue to uphold Hong Kong's rule of law, said Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma. Speaking to the media this morning ahead of his retirement, Mr Ma expressed the hope that Hong Kong will continue to be society government by the rule of law. "Many people have said that Hong Kong has changed - changed a lot recently - compared with before. Whether that is so or not, I'd like to think that the Judiciary remains stable and consistent in upholding the rule of law and abiding by those principles, and judges abiding by their judicial oath as I have mentioned," he said. "Our system of law hopefully provides the sort of stability which society often, certainly sometimes, needs." Mr Ma added that his hope for the future is the maintenance of Hong Kong's rule of law and that Hong Kong remains a society which is governed by the rule of law. Details here.

Rule of law to be upheld
   
Social distancing measures extended

Jan 4, 2021 - Social distancing measures currently in place in Hong Kong will be maintained for another two weeks until Jan 20. Speaking at a press briefing this afternoon, Secretary for Food & Health Prof Sophia Chan explained that the measures could not be relaxed given the global COVID-19 pandemic and local situation. Prof Chan called on the public to work together to bring the infection numbers down. Under the latest requirements, dine-in service in restaurants must end at 6 pm, with no more than two people seated together at one table. Bars and pubs, along with other public venues, remain close. The prohibition on group gatherings of more than two people in public places and the mandatory mask-wearing requirement also remain in force. All kindergartens, as well as primary and secondary schools, continue to suspend face-to-face classes and school activities until the Lunar New Year holiday next month. Details here.

Social distancing measures extended
   
November's retail sales fell 4%

Jan 4, 2021 - The value of total retail sales in November, provisionally estimated at HK$28.7 billion (US$3.6 billion), fell 4% year-on-year. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales dropped 4.7% year-on-year. The year-on-year decline in retail sales further narrowed in November, primarily due to the notable increase in sales at retail outlets of consumer durable goods. Looking ahead, with inbound tourism remains at a standstill, and the fourth wave of the local epidemic weighing on local consumption sentiment since the latter part of November, the business environment of the retail trade will remain challenging in the near term. Details here.

November's retail sales fell 4%
   
Electronic testing record website set up

Jan 3, 2021 - Members of the public can download their own electronic testing record through the COVID-19 Electronic Testing Record System (the System) through a dedicated website (www.evt.gov.hk) set up by the Hong Kong SAR Government. They can simply input their Hong Kong identity card number and specimen bottle number to the System’s website to download the record. The public can also access the System through the “COVID-19 Thematic Website” (www.coronavirus.gov.hk). Details here.

Electronic testing record website set up
   


 


    
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