Latest from Hong Kong
  The Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong SAR announced the 2022-23 Budget
Unveiling his 2022-23 Budget on 23 February, the Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Mr Paul Chan, reinforced the Government’s “all-out efforts” to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining sound finances and gearing up for recovery.  This year’s Budget focused on four main areas: allocating adequate resources to support an all-out effort to win the fight against the epidemic; relieving the hardship of Hong Kong’s people and its small and medium-sized enterprises; rendering support to the struggling economy and fostering a post-epidemic economic revival; and investing for the future by planning ahead for the medium- and long-term development of Hong Kong’s economy.

Mr Chan expected Hong Kong’s economic performance to pick up in the second half of 2022 and achieve growth of 2% to 3.5% in real terms for the year as a whole, while the underlying inflation rate was expected to be 2% this year.

To support the anti-epidemic work, Mr Chan announced that a total financial commitment of over HK$460 billion was involved in the counter-cyclical measures as well as funding under the Anti-epidemic Fund.

Mr Chan also set aside resources to spur the progress of industries such as innovation and technology, financial services, arts and culture, and tourism.  To promote investment in sectors that have good potential for contributing to the economy, Mr Chan increased the funding allocation to the Hong Kong Growth Portfolio, under the Future Fund, by HK$10 billion.  Of that amount, HK$5 billion will be used to set up a new investment fund, namely the Strategic Tech Fund, while the remaining HK$5 billion will be used to set up a GBA Investment Fund, which will focus on investment opportunities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

In light of the successful launch of the Consumption Voucher Scheme last year, a second round of the scheme was announced, under which electronic consumption vouchers with a total value of HK$10,000 will be disbursed by instalment to each eligible Hong Kong permanent resident and new arrival aged 18 or above through suitable stored value facilities.  A package of one-off relief measures to support people who have been affected by the epidemic, including reducing salaries tax and tax under personal assessment, providing rates concession for domestic properties, granting each eligible residential electricity account a subsidy of HK$1,000, was announced.  Mr Chan also announced a raft of business relief measures including reducing profits tax, providing rates concession for non-domestic properties, waiving the business registration fees and waiving 75% of water and sewage charges payable by non-domestic households for eight months.

Read the full Budget Speech.

Learn more about the Budget.
Lunar New Year message from the Chief Executive
On the occasion of the Lunar New Year, the Chief Executive of the HKSAR, Mrs Carrie Lam, said that looking back on the Year of the Ox, Hong Kong has maintained stability overall as a result of hard work.  She said that capitalising on the opportunities presented by the National 14th Five-Year Plan, Hong Kong has been actively integrating into the overall development of the Mainland.  Leaping into the Year of the Tiger, Mrs Lam said that Hong Kong is set to usher in a brighter future.  “The tiger is a symbol of quick response, great bravery and strong vitality.  These attributes vividly describe the spirit of Hong Kong people, who always make the best of their opportunities and rise to the challenges that come their way.  Such a spirit will not only help us get through the epidemic, but will also take Hong Kong into a new era of prosperity as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland,” she said, wishing all Hong Kong citizens a healthy, harmonious and auspicious Year of the Tiger.

See the Chief Executive’s Lunar New Year message here.
Hong Kong’s trade in services statistics for 2020
The Census and Statistics Department released on 15 February the Hong Kong’s trade in services statistics for 2020.  The value of total exports of services in 2020 decreased by 35.0% year-on-year to HK$518.9 billion, and that of total imports of services decreased by 32.8% year-on-year to HK$426.3 billion.  An invisible trade surplus at HK$92.7 billion, equivalent to 21.7% of the value of total imports of services, was recorded in 2020.  A Government spokesman noted that the total value of services trade still amounted to more than one-third of GDP, signifying the status of Hong Kong as an international financial, transportation and trade centre as well as a major services hub in the region.  The spokesman pointed out that while services trade resumed growth in overall terms in 2021 alongside improved global economic conditions, its recovery remained uneven.  In particular, travel and cross-boundary passenger transport services remained in the doldrums as tourism was at a standstill throughout the year.  Despite the short-term challenges, with Hong Kong’s unique advantages under “One Country, Two Systems” and strong competitive edges, Hong Kong’s services sector is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the national development and the Eastward shift of global economic gravity.  The Government also continued to act as a “facilitator” and “promoter” in economic development, enhance institutional strengths, foster innovation and technology and other areas of growth potentials, and assist the private sector and professional service providers to explore new market opportunities.

More details here.
HKMC signs MoUs with 14 partner banks on infrastructure loans framework
The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Limited (HKMC) announced on 11 February the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on infrastructure loans framework with each of the 14 partner banks.  These MoUs set out the principal terms for potential infrastructure loan cooperation between the HKMC and the partner banks on both primary participation and secondary sale bases, including the loan selection criteria, mode of participation and engagement process.  The MoUs could assist the partner banks in identifying infrastructure-related loan assets for the HKMC, and would further the mandates of the HKMC’s infrastructure financing and securitisation business to fill the infrastructure financing market gaps while consolidating Hong Kong’s position as an infrastructure financing hub.

More details here.
Postponement of the sixth-term Chief Executive Election
In view of the severe epidemic situation of COVID-19, the HKSAR Government announced on 18 February the decision to postpone the sixth-term Chief Executive Election, which was originally scheduled for 27 March, to 8 May.  The new nomination period would run from 3 to 16 April.  The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) expressed support over the Government’s decision and would follow up on the practical arrangements in relation to the postponement with the Registration and Electoral Office.  The EAC would continue to devote full efforts, acting in accordance with an open, honest and fair principle to make reasonably practicable arrangements for public elections.

More details here.
Government leverages support of Central Authorities and assumes main responsibility to curb epidemic
In response to President Xi Jinping’s great concern about the fifth wave of the COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong and his sincere care for the people of the city as relayed, the Chief Executive of the HKSAR, Mrs Carrie Lam, on behalf of the HKSAR and all the people of Hong Kong, expressed her heartfelt gratitude on 16 February.  She would continue to lead the HKSAR Government, leveraging the support of the Central Authorities with unwavering determination and uniting all sectors of the community, to make every effort to fight the epidemic as the top priority.  Mrs Lam said that the Central Authorities have all along been providing their strongest support for the HKSAR.  The HKSAR Government would, in accordance with the important instruction of President Xi, assume the main responsibility to stabilise the epidemic situation early as the overriding mission at present, and mobilise all available manpower and resources and adopt all necessary measures to safeguard the lives and health of Hong Kong people and the stability of society.

More details here.
HKSAR Government strongly opposes misleading and baseless allegations by foreign entities on freedoms of the press and speech in Hong Kong
The Government of the HKSAR on 9 February strongly condemned a totally erroneous statement issued by the United Kingdom Government in the name of a number of foreign entities under the so-called “Media Freedom Coalition” concerning the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law.  A spokesperson for the HKSAR Government said that the HKSAR is proud of its unwavering commitment to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, which underpin the city’s success as an international business and financial centre.  Under Article 25 of the Basic Law, all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law.  It is baseless for the signatories to the statement to make such allegations that our authorities have targeted and suppressed independent media in the HKSAR since the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law.  The spokesperson also stressed that all law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies under the Hong Kong National Security Law, or indeed any local legislation, are based on evidence, strictly according to the law and for the acts of the persons or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their occupation, background or political stance.  The media can exercise their right to monitor the HKSAR Government’s work, and their freedom of commenting on or even criticising government policies remains uninhibited as long as this is not in violation of the law.

More details here.
  Updates on Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic measures
  • The Government announced further tightening of social distancing measures and its intention to maintain the relevant measures till 20 April.
    • Starting from 24 February, the Vaccine Pass is applicable to the following specified premises: all catering business premises (including bars or pubs), amusement game centres, bathhouses, fitness centres, places of amusement, places of public entertainment, party rooms, beauty parlours and massage establishments, clubs or nightclubs, karaoke establishments, mahjong-tin kau premises, club houses, sports premises, swimming pools, cruise ships, event premises, religious premises, barber shops or hair salons, shopping malls, department stores, supermarkets, markets, and hotels or guesthouses (only applicable to staff members).
    • All persons shall wear a mask in any public places (including country parks), whether or not they are engaging in physical activities; and taking masks off for eating and drinking will not be allowed on public transport carriers (including ferries/kaitos) and in MTR paid areas.
    • As for the scheduled premises, the existing social distancing measures will be extended for two weeks till 9 March.  All closed premises will remain closed, whereas the maximum number of persons per table in catering premises will be further reduced to two.
    • Other existing measures, such as allowing no more than two persons per group gathering in a public place, prohibition of multi-household gatherings at private premises involving more than two households, mask-wearing requirement and cessation of mass events to avoid group gatherings, will continue to be implemented.
  • The Government announced that the place-specific flight suspension mechanism for Australia, Canada, France, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States of America has been extended to 20 April.  All passenger flights from these nine places are prohibited from landing in Hong Kong, and at the same time, persons who have stayed in these places for more than two hours within 14 days will be restricted from boarding passenger flights for Hong Kong, so as to stop persons from the relevant places from travelling to Hong Kong via transit.  Details on the relevant boarding and compulsory quarantine requirements for respective specified places can be found here.
  • The latest list of places of issuance of recognised vaccination records can be found here.
  • The first community isolation facility (CIF) hotel has begun operation from 18 February, providing accommodation to isolate people who test positive for COVID-19 but have no or mild symptoms.  About 4 400 hotel rooms have been secured by the Government.  Among the hotels, Dorsett Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, iclub Ma Tau Wai Hotel, iclub Fortress Hill Hotel and Regal Oriental Hotel have also turned into CIFs.
  • The Government launched the “StayHomeSafe” Scheme on 8 February.  Persons undergoing “StayHomeSafe” must stay in their dwelling place and wear an electronic wristband throughout the quarantine period; regularly monitor their physical condition including taking body temperature twice daily; conduct regular Rapid Antigen Test on their own on specified dates (close contacts must also attend the Community Testing Centre for testing on Day 12) and follow other home quarantine guidelines issued by the Department of Health.
  • The Government announced on 26 February the latest criteria for discharge from isolation for people infected with COVID-19 and discharge from home quarantine for close contacts.  Under the new criteria, infected people who have been sent to CIFs and people pending admission may conduct a rapid antigen test (RAT) on Day 6 and Day 7 after testing positive, should they have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.  Similarly, close contacts who have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine may conduct RATs on Day 6 and Day 7 of the home quarantine period.  If these two groups of people obtain negative test results during RATs on these two successive days, they may leave CIFs or home premises earlier on Day 7 for their daily activities.
Read more at the Fight Against COVID-19 website.
HKETO events
  Director of HKETO attended the Chinese New Year Cocktail jointly organised with the New South Wales Chapter of the Hong Kong Australia Business Association
The Director of HKETO, Miss Trista Lim, attended the Chinese New Year Cocktail jointly organised with the New South Wales Chapter of the Hong Kong Australia Business Association (HKABA) on 22 February.  Miss Lim said that the Year of the Tiger marks an important milestone for Hong Kong as it is the year to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Establishment of the HKSAR.  The celebration theme, “A New Era – Stability • Prosperity • Opportunity”, not only represents Hong Kong’s exemplary achievements since returning to its motherland, but also underscores the anticipation for and strong confidence in a bright future.  Miss Lim added that HKETO would organise a wide range of celebration events to showcase Hong Kong’s vibrant developments and achievements and enhance Hong Kong’s status as an international city.
  Director of HKETO attended the Chinese New Year celebrations jointly organised with the Western Australia Chapter of the HKABA and the Hong Kong New Zealand Business Association
The Director of HKETO, Miss Trista Lim, virtually attended the Chinese New Year celebrations jointly organised with the Western Australia Chapter of the HKABA and the Hong Kong New Zealand Business Association on 9 and 10 February respectively.  Miss Lim updated the participants the encouraging economic performance and latest development in Hong Kong.  Citing the Chief Executive’s 2021 Policy Address, Miss Lim talked about the immense opportunities for Hong Kong under the National 14th Five-Year Plan and stressed that Hong Kong would continue to be the prime partner in exploring benefits from the continuing development of the Mainland and its deepening integration with the Asian region.
  Director of HKETO attended the Chinese New Year online celebration organised by the National Chapter of the HKABA
The Director of HKETO, Miss Trista Lim, attended the Chinese New Year online celebration organised by the National Chapter of the HKABA on 3 February.  Citing the Chief Executive’s 2021 Policy Address entitled “Building a Bright Future Together”, Miss Lim shared with the participants that the Chief Executive set Hong Kong on course for a new era of development driven by closer integration with the Mainland China economy and opportunities under the effective implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”.  She added that some priority areas for economic development have been identified, including innovation and technology and fintech, and HKETO would take forward different events to promote the development in these areas and attract talents to Hong Kong pro-actively to enrich its talent pool.  As Hong Kong is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Establishment of the HKSAR in 2022, Miss Lim also welcomed the participants to join the wide range of events to be organised by HKETO this year.
  Sydney Lunar Festival Dragon Boat Races 2022
HKETO showcased Hong Kong’s strengths at the Sydney Lunar Festival Dragon Boat Races held in Sydney, Australia on 5 to 6 February.  During the two-day Dragon Boat Races at Darling Harbour, HKETO organised the “Hong Kong Team” to compete in the Social Category of the races on 6 February and won the third place.  A marquee was also set up to distribute pamphlets to allow members of the public to know more about the exciting developments in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong-themed banners with Lunar New Year greeting messages were displayed in some key city locations of Sydney during the Lunar New Year period.

More details here.
Upcoming events
  Internet Economy Summit 2022 (Online)
The Internet Economy Summit (IES) 2022 will be held online through the virtual platform from 12 to 13 April.  IES will continue to gather global tech heavyweights, industry trailblazers, and business visionaries for a feast of tech insights, ideas, and inspiration on how smart city technologies will supercharge smart economies as well as accelerate the formation of futureproof digital societies.  Being an international innovation and technology hub with the distinctive edge of global vision and strategic connectivity with the Greater Bay Area and the rest of the world, Hong Kong is set to spur new growth leveraging opportunities brought by the National 14th Five-Year Plan and from the new normal worldwide.  This year, the IES returns to unveil global and regional visions on how smart city technologies will supercharge smart economies as well as accelerate the formation of futureproof digital societies.

More details here.
  Hong Kong 2022 International Society for the Performing Arts Congress (Hong Kong)
The Hong Kong 2022 International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress will be held from 23 to 28 May under the theme of “To Connect Beyond”, delving into the intricacy and relationship between artists and the community, cultural places and performance sites, as well as the past and future.  The Congress will be arranged in hybrid mode made up of intensive art administration program, keynote sessions, panel discussions, Pitch New Works, Professional Exchange sessions, performance showcases and a day-trip with visit to the latest performing arts venues in Shenzhen, which is aiming for harnessing collaborations and cultural exchange opportunities for delegates in the Greater Bay Area.  ISPA is highly acclaimed for its leading position in the performing arts and as a global membership network consisting of more than 500 artistic leaders from over 185 cities and all regions of the globe.  As a member of ISPA, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of the HKSAR Government will build on the success of previous ISPA conferences by organising a mid-year congress that values members’ needs.  Hong Kong will be the first Asian city to host the ISPA Congress twice, having also hosted it in 2006.

More details here.
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