April 8 - 14, 2019

BILATERAL TIES

Financial Secretary promotes I&T cooperation in US

Financial Secretary Paul Chan promoted Hong Kong’s innovation & technology (I&T) sector during his visit to Seattle and San Francisco (Apr 9-11), encouraging senior executives of technology enterprises to partner with Hong Kong and venture capitalists to look to Hong Kong for investment opportunities. In Seattle, he exchanged views with Senior Deputy Mayor of Seattle Michael Fong, on promoting I&T development and smart city initiatives. He pointed out that the government is sparing no efforts in building a thriving I&T ecosystem and nurturing I&T talents, focusing on four areas: biotechnology, artificial intelligence, smart city and fintech, amid growth and opportunities from development in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

US Trade Representative removes incorrect statement from report

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has taken out (Apr 8) an incorrect statement about Hong Kong from the 2019 National Trade Estimate Report, which was published on March 29. This came after the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices in Washington and Geneva had followed up with the relevant US authorities on April 1 to convey the concerns and clarify that Hong Kong has, since 1996, fulfilled its notification obligations under the World Trade Organization Customs Valuation Agreement. The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau also written to the Consul General of the United States to Hong Kong and Macau to set the record straight and asked for urgent rectification by the USTR.

Cathay Pacific launches non-stop services to Seattle

Hong Kong’s home-grown carrier Cathay Pacific started a new non-stop service to Seattle on Mar 31, becoming the only airline that directly links Asia’s World City with the Emerald City. With the four-times-weekly service, Seattle becomes the airline’s eighth passenger gateway in the US, and its 10th in North America. Cathay Pacific currently serves Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), New York (Newark), San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver. Speaking at the launch gala reception and dinner in Seattle (Apr 9), Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the new services will enable the two cities to explore new ways to connect.

LEGAL

Judicial independence upheld

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said claims that judicial means were used to carry out political prosecution in a recent court ruling are unfounded. Speaking to the media (Apr 10), Mrs Lam said the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong has an independent judiciary, and that prosecutorial decisions made by the Department of Justice were free from interference. She also cited remarks by Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Geoffrey Ma who said it is no part of a court’s function or duty to adjudicate on political, social or economic issues.

Safeguards in place for proposed extradition law

Understanding that there are different views on the proposed revisions to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, Security John Lee said the government will solicit legislators’ support for the changes (Apr 12). He reiterated that the proposed legal changes are necessary to plug current legal loopholes and to ensure that people who have committed serious offences do face the justice they deserve, and also at the same time to ensure citizens of Hong Kong are protected from people who have committed serious crimes. People who may be subject to surrender will have all their legal and human rights safeguarded.

Earlier (Apr 9), Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said there are clear safeguards for the proposed revisions, pointing out that with the city’s rule of law and judicial independence, the entire procedure will be transparent, with the Department of Justice and the Court of Final Appeal as gatekeepers and judicial review procedures to provide protection. Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said the Government aims to establish a system for the extradition of fugitive offenders, as the rule of law is respected in Hong Kong.

HKIAC is first foreign institution licensed in Russia

The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) will be the first foreign institution allowed to administer cases in Russia, under Russian arbitration reform introduced in September 2016. The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation will grant the permission to HKIAC by Apr 25. The HKIAC, operating from a jurisdiction that has not imposed sanctions against Russian entities, is emerging as a preferred institution for disputes involving Russian parties. Hong Kong does not require visas for Russian visitors.

FINANCE

Hong Kong to host 2020 Climate Business Forum

Hong Kong’s push to be an international hub for green finance will be further bolstered when the city hosts the Sixth Annual Climate Business Forum in early 2020, bringing global policymakers and finance leaders together to share knowledge and expertise on growing climate business investment in emerging markets. Welcoming the collaboration opportunity with the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group), Chief Executive of the HKMA Norman Chan said the HKMA is dedicated to supporting responsible investment and green finance and has incorporated environmental, social, and governance principles into the investment processes of the Exchange Fund.

Hong Kong maintains competitiveness

Despite the global economic challenges, Hong Kong will continue to enhance the resilience of its financial system, further improve the regulatory regime, and boost investor confidence and protection, further consolidating the city’s unrivalled status as an international financial and risk management center, Acting Financial Secretary James Lau told industry executives and policymakers at the International Swaps and Derivatives Association annual general meeting (Apr 10). The government is committed to enhancing the robustness of the international regulatory regime relating to over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives and has amended legislations to encourage corporate treasury centers (CTC) operations in Hong Kong.

“Insurance Connect” mooted

The “insurance connect” initiative, covering medical and motor insurance products, could be implemented as part of the mutual access to financial products between Hong Kong and other cities in the Greater Bay Area, said Acting Financial Secretary James Lau (Apr 10). The recently-released Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area supports enhanced connectivity in the bay area with respect to financial products, which would include insurance.

Fourth virtual banking license issued

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has granted a banking license to Welab Digital (Apr 10), making the homegrown fintech company the 4th virtual bank in Hong Kong. Welab Digital plans to launch its services within six to nine months. The introduction of virtual banks will further reinforce the city’s position as a premier international financial center, drive FinTech and innovation, introduce new customer experiences and further promote financial inclusion. According to HKMA, another four virtual banks are in the pipeline.

BASIC LAW

Hong Kong and its Basic Law

The Basic Law (BL) is the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Put into effect on July 1, 1997, it enshrines within a legal document the important concept of “One Country, Two Systems". 

Q: Do Hong Kong people enjoy a wide range of personal freedoms?

A: Chapter III of the Basic Law guarantees a wide range of rights and freedoms to be enjoyed by Hong Kong people. The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international labour conventions as applied to Hong Kong continue to remain in force. (BL Articles 27-39) The extensive rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people are borne out by, for instance, the fact that Hong Kong residents participate freely in processions and assemblies; newspapers regularly comment on or criticize government decisions and policies, and people express freely their opinion in Hong Kong’s open society.

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