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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
   
Ushering in the Year of the Rat in Atlanta

Over 200 guests from the political, business, academic and cultural sectors in Atlanta joined Hong Kong Commissioner to the US Eddie Mak and Director of HKETONY Joanne Chu to welcome the Year of the Rat at a reception (Jan 23). Welcoming guests to the reception, Commissioner Mak gave an update on the latest developments in Hong Kong and highlighted the broad and close ties between Hong Kong and the US. He also mentioned the various opportunities for American businesses to tap into in Hong Kong. Speaking at the reception, Ms Chu reaffirmed the office's commitment to foster closer economic and cultural ties with academics, arts and culture, business and government in the US to promote a better understanding of Hong Kong. Details here.

Ushering in the Year of the Rat in Atlanta
   
Two Hong Kong arts activators start art residency at Yale

Director of HKETONY Joanne Chu welcomed Hong Kong cross-disciplinary artist-curator Wong Chi-yung and filmmaker Jeremy Hung to New Haven to start their six-month residency program at Yale University under the Hong Kong Arts Activators Fellowship program of the HKETONY. Speaking at a welcome reception (Jan 21), Ms Chu said this is the second consecutive year of HKETONY's partnership with the Yale-China Association in the arts activators program. Previously, from 2015 to 2017, HKETONY had also partnered with the Association to provide another fellowship program for Hong Kong artists. Wishing the two activators a rewarding experience, Ms Chu said she hopes they can further broaden their horizons and enrich their professional skills in arts administration during their six-month residency at Yale University. Details here.

Two Hong Kong arts activators start art residency at Yale
   
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
   
Reception to welcome first Hong Kong chair of ISPA

Hong Kong, a thriving and vibrant arts and cultural hub, welcomes talents from around the world, said HKETONY Director Joanne Chu at the reception welcoming Tisa Ho, the first Hong Kong chair of the International Society for the Performing Arts, in New York (Jan 17). The Director also updated some 80 guests from the cultural and business sectors on the latest developments in arts infrastructure in Hong Kong, including last year’s opening of Xiqu Centre and Freespace at the West Kowloon Cultural District and the reopening of the Hong Kong Arts Museum. Details here.

Reception to welcome first Hong Kong chair of ISPA
   
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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