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Hong Kong Update for Travellers and Others

Get travel advice and stay on top of the latest developments in Hong Kong affecting the airport, public transport, public safety and other issues. Details here.

Updates on Latest Situation in Hong Kong
   
Public Health Response Plan Activated

Hong Kong health authorities continue to monitor developments regarding the emergence of an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. A dedicated webpage has been set up to provide relevant information and health advice. Details here.

Public Health Response Plan Activated
   
December's exports of goods grew 3.8%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US$3.2 billion fund to fight viral outbreak
   
Hong Kong's advantages

Director of HKETONY Joanne Chu spoke on the latest developments in Hong Kong and highlighted the business opportunities for US businesses in the Guangdong - Hong Kong - Macao Greater Bay Area at the panel discussion “What Does the New US-China Trade Agreement Mean for My Business?”, organized by the World Trade Center Delaware (Feb 12). Representatives from the US Commercial Service and the US-China Business Council also spoke at the event. Details here.

Hong Kong's advantages
   
Quarantine surveillance enhanced

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

Quarantine surveillance enhanced
   
Postal services from the United States normal

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

Postal services from the United States normal
   
Cooperation urged in fight against virus

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

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

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

Multi-pronged approach to procure surgical masks
   
Cruise quarantine completed

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

Cruise quarantine completed
   
Mandatory quarantine for travelers arriving from Mainland

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

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

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

Some overseas airmail services subject to delay
   
December retail sales down

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

December retail sales down
   
Government defends response to disease

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

Government defends response to disease
   
US-bound counterfeit goods seized

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

US-bound counterfeit goods seized
   
Technology Talent Admission Scheme enhanced

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

Technology Talent Admission Scheme enhanced
   
Government increases supply of surgical masks

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

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

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

December's exports grew 3.3%
   
Enhanced health measures announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greater travel convenience for HKSAR passport holders
   
Unemployment rate grows to 3.3%

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

Unemployment rate grows to 3.3%
   
Government disagrees with Moody’s rating

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

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

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

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

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

December inflation grew 2.9%
   
Core events of StartmeupHK Festival 2020 announced

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

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

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

Government regrets call for sanctions
   
Business expectations survey unveiled

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

Business expectations survey unveiled
   
Chief Executive to attend World Economic Forum

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

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

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

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

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

Government responds to NGO report
   
Unlocking business potential

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

Unlocking business potential
   
Asian Financial Forum opens

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

Asian Financial Forum opens
   
Financial market stable

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

Financial market stable
   
Pledge to uphold judicial independence

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

Pledge to uphold judicial independence
   
Rule of law upheld

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

Rule of law upheld
   
Fintech Week to be held in November

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

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

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

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

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

HKSARG responds to US report
   
Port health measures boosted

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

Port health measures boosted
   
November retail sales drop 23.6%

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

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

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

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

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

Justice Department and HK legal bodies responds to criticism against judge
   

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