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2020

30/06/2020
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government welcomes the passage of the National Security Law by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC), Chief Executive Carrie Lam said today. In a statement, Mrs Lam said The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will come into effect later today. The Hong Kong SAR Government will complete the necessary procedure for publication by gazette as soon as possible to enable the implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong in tandem, she added. The law has been listed in Annex III of the Basic Law in accordance with Article 18 of the Basic Law after consulting the NPCSC's Committee for the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR and the Hong Kong SAR Government. Noting that the Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China and a local administrative region which enjoys a high degree of autonomy and comes directly under the Central People's Government, the statement said safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests is the constitutional duty of the Hong Kong SAR and concerns every Hong Kong citizen. In view of the increasingly pronounced national security risks faced by the Hong Kong SAR, the enactment of a national security law at the state level is both necessary and urgent in order to plug the loophole in national security in Hong Kong, the statement noted. The legislation is an important step to improve the "one country, two systems" institutional system as well as restore stability in Hong Kong society as soon as possible, it added. The National Security Law seeks to practically and effectively prevent, curb and punish four types of crimes seriously endangering national security, namely acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security. The law only targets an extremely small minority of offenders while the life and property as well as various legitimate basic rights and freedoms enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of citizens will be protected, the statement noted. In accordance with the requirement of the National Security Law, the Hong Kong SAR Government will establish the Committee for Safeguarding National Security to be chaired by the Chief Executive as soon as possible. Dedicated Police and Department of Justice units will be responsible for implementing the relevant legal provisions in the National Security Law.  The Chief Executive expressed her heartfelt thanks to the NPCSC for gauging the views of the Hong Kong SAR Government and various sectors of the community in Hong Kong as well as taking on board the city's practical situation during the law drafting process. “I am also encouraged by the overwhelming support of the members of the public. I am confident that after the implementation of the National Security Law, the social unrest which has troubled Hong Kong people for nearly a year will be eased and stability will be restored, thereby enabling Hong Kong to start anew, focus on economic development and improve people's livelihood."
30/06/2020
Secretary for Security John Lee together with the heads of six disciplined services departments welcomed the passage of The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region today by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Mr Lee, Commissioner of Police Tang Ping-keung, Commissioner of Customs & Excise Hermes Tang, Commissioner of Correctional Services Woo Ying-ming, Director of Fire Services Joseph Leung, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Controller of the Government Flying Service Wu Wai-hung pledged full support for the effective implementation of the law in Hong Kong. The security chief said that he will lead the disciplinary forces to fully discharge their due responsibilities to implement the national security law, striving to safeguard national security, ensuring the continued success of "one country, two systems", restoring social peace and preserving Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government will soon promulgate the national security law to prevent, curb and punish criminal acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security. The law will only target an extremely small minority of offenders, while the life and property of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong citizens, as well as their legitimate and fundamental rights and freedoms, will be protected. As required in the national security law, the Hong Kong SAR Government will establish as soon as possible the Committee for Safeguarding National Security to be chaired by the Chief Executive with members including the Secretary for Security, the Commissioner of Police, the head of the Hong Kong Police Force's dedicated unit for safeguarding national security, the Director of Immigration and the Commissioner of Customs & Excise. Mr Lee said he and all disciplinary forces will render full support to the national security law's implementation. The Security Bureau is establishing an enforcement mechanism for effectively safeguarding national security. The dedicated police unit being set up will be equipped with effective enforcement power to discharge the enforcement duties under the national security law. The other five disciplinary forces will also fully assist in their respective professional areas in collaboration with Police in carrying out work in safeguarding national security. "The formulation of the law on safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR at a state level shows that the central authorities have taken Hong Kong's practical situation into consideration. The law's enactment helps Hong Kong restore stability and put the economy back on track, allowing Hong Kong to ride out the difficult times and safeguarding its long-term prosperity and stability. "I will lead all disciplinary forces to fully and resolutely support the implementation of the national security law, ensuring that the law comes into force effectively," Mr Lee added.
30/06/2020
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has welcomed the passage of The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The national security law was passed today by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and was included in Annex III of the Basic Law to be promulgated and implemented in the Hong Kong SAR. Ms Cheng said in a statement that the national security law is targeted at the criminal acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security. The law provides clear rules and legal basis for preventing, curbing and punishing those who breach the law to endanger national security, and is conducive to safeguarding national security, she added.                                 The national security law specifies that the Hong Kong SAR should observe the important principles of the rule of law, including the presumption of innocence, the rights of defence and the rule against double jeopardy. It also clearly states that the Hong Kong SAR should protect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents in accordance with law. Ms Cheng said she would continue to lead the Department of Justice to provide full support for and discharge the responsibility of safeguarding national security in Hong Kong. The justice chief also noted that being one of the members of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security to be chaired by the Chief Executive, she is committed to assisting in formulating policies and implementing the relevant legal system. A dedicated unit of the department has been established to handle prosecutions and related legal matters on national security in accordance with law, she added.
30/06/2020
The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was gazetted for promulgation today and took effect at 11pm. Chief Executive Carrie Lam signed the promulgation and the national security law took effect upon gazettal this evening. With 66 articles, the national security law has six chapters, namely the general principles; the duties and the Government Bodies of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for safeguarding national security; offences and penalties; jurisdiction, applicable law and procedure; Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government (CPG) in the Hong Kong SAR; and supplementary provisions. As stated in the summary of the explanatory statement of the draft law submitted to a session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress released earlier, the provisions of the national security law full reflect the following principles: (1) the CPG has an overarching responsibility for national security affairs relating to the Hong Kong SAR, while the Hong Kong SAR bears the constitutional duty of safeguarding national security;(2) in safeguarding national security, the Hong Kong SAR shall uphold the principle of the rule of law;(3) the Hong Kong SAR shall establish and improve relevant institutions and their duties in safeguarding national security;(4) stipulations are made on what constitutes the four categories of crimes that endanger national security and their corresponding penalties;(5) stipulations are made in relation to jurisdiction of cases, application of laws and procedures; and(6) the CPG shall establish an office for safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR. The purposes of the national security law are to prevent, curb and punish crimes, namely acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security, maintain prosperity and stability of the Hong Kong SAR, and protect the lawful rights and interests of its residents. In discharging its duty in safeguarding national security, Hong Kong shall fully enforce the national security law and the laws in force in the Special Administrative Region concerning the prevention, suppression, and imposition of punishments for acts and activities endangering national security as well as strengthen its work on safeguarding national security and prevention of terrorist activities. It shall also take necessary measures to strengthen public communication, guidance, supervision and regulation over matters concerning national security, including those relating to schools, social organisations, the media and the Internet as well as complete as early as possible legislation for safeguarding national security as stipulated in the Basic Law and refine relevant laws. The Chief Executive shall submit an annual report to the CPG on Hong Kong's performance of duties in safeguarding national security. The national security law stipulates that a Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong SAR chaired by the Chief Executive will be established to take up national security affairs and bear the major responsibility for safeguarding national security. The committee will be supervised and accountable to the CPG. Its members include the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, Secretary for Justice, Secretary for Security, Commissioner of Police, the head of the department for safeguarding national security of the Police Force established under Article 16 of the national security law, Director of Immigration, Commissioner of Customs & Excise and the Director of the Chief Executive's Office. The secretariat under the committee is to be headed by the Secretary General, who shall be appointed by the CPG upon nomination by the Chief Executive. The committee will analyse and assess developments in relation to safeguarding national security in Hong Kong, make work plans and formulate policies, advance the development of the legal system and enforcement mechanisms, and co-ordinate major work and significant operations. It shall be free from any interference in performing its duties and information relating to its work shall not be disclosed to the public. Decisions made by the committee shall not be amenable to judicial review. The committee shall have a National Security Advisor to be designated by the CPG who shall sit in on the committee's meetings and advise on relevant matters. As the principal enforcement authorities of the national security law, Police and the Department of Justice will set up dedicated divisions to handle national security affairs. The Financial Secretary shall, upon approval of the Chief Executive, appropriate from the general revenue a special fund to meet the expenditure for safeguarding national security and approve the establishment of relevant posts, which are not subject to any restrictions in the relevant provisions of existing laws. The Financial Secretary shall submit an annual report on the control and management of the fund for this purpose to the Legislative Council. Except under circumstances specified, the Hong Kong SAR shall have jurisdiction over cases under the national security law. The national security law and the laws of Hong Kong shall apply to procedural matters, including those related to criminal investigation, prosecution, trial and execution of penalty. In handling national security cases, the department responsible for safeguarding national security under Police may take measures in investigating serious crimes under the laws in force in Hong Kong or other stipulated measures under the national security law. A dedicated department under the Department of Justice is responsible for the prosecution of national security offences. Without the Secretary for Justice’s written consent, prosecution of a national security case shall not be instituted. The Secretary for Justice may, for such reasons as protecting national secrets, issue certification to direct that the relevant case shall be tried without a jury. Where a case is to be tried in the Court of First Instance without a jury, a court consisting of three judges should be constituted. Judges designated from courts at all levels are responsible for hearing cases involving offences endangering national security. Unless national secrets are involved, the trial shall be held in open court and all judgements be announced to the public. These judges are to be designated by the Chief Executive after consultation with the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong SAR and Chief Justice. Specified circumstances refer to any one of the following three kinds of situations that has been reported by the Government or the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the CPG in the Hong Kong SAR to the CPG for approval: (1) the case is complex due to the involvement of a foreign country or external elements, thus making it difficult for Hong Kong to exercise jurisdiction over the case;(2) a serious situation occurs where the Government is unable to effectively enforce the national security law; or(3) a major and imminent threat to national security has occurred. In these situations, the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the CPG in the Hong Kong SAR shall exercise jurisdiction over cases under the national security law.                                                                                                          For the Government to effectively discharge its duty in safeguarding national security, Police and the Department of Justice have made preparations for the establishment of dedicated units. Police will establish a dedicated National Security Department on July 1 to handle the relevant work. The Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong SAR chaired by the Chief Executive will be set up as soon as possible to take up the major responsibility of safeguarding national security.   
30/06/2020
Police today said they will resolutely enforce The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The national security law, which has come into force, clearly stipulates the specific composition and corresponding criminal liability for four types of crimes. They are: acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. In response to the various criminal acts that endanger national security, Police will conduct arrests and take other law enforcement action in accordance with the national security law and the laws of Hong Kong to protect the life and property of citizens and the basic rights and freedoms they enjoy under the law. Noting that the Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China, the force added that it is fully responsible for safeguarding the security of Hong Kong as well as the country. It will fully perform its duties and strictly enforce the law to restore social order and ensure the effective implementation of the national security law in the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security.
29/06/2020
The Government today launched a pilot scheme to provide facilitation for eligible non-Hong Kong residents participating in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong on a short-term basis. The scheme aims to strengthen Hong Kong’s position as an international centre for legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region, and to be in line with the Belt & Road Initiative as well as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Development. Under the scheme, nationals of countries who may visit Hong Kong visa-free and possess a letter of proof are allowed to take part in arbitral proceedings in the city as visitors, and will not be required to obtain employment visas. The duration that they may stay in Hong Kong for arbitral proceedings shall not exceed the current visa-free period for a visit. The scheme covers four categories of visa-free nationals, namely arbitrators, expert and factual witnesses, arbitration counsel and parties to the arbitration. People who wish to benefit from the scheme shall obtain a letter of proof that confirms they are eligible to participate in arbitral proceedings in Hong Kong. The pilot scheme will run on a trial basis for two years.
29/06/2020
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today welcomed the government of Thailand's decision to establish a special travel arrangement for cross-border control with five economies including Hong Kong. The announcement was made during a webinar, titled Resilience Strategy: Thailand-Hong Kong Partnership, jointly organised by the Commerce & Economic Development Bureau and the Thailand Board of Investment. Thailand’s Deputy Secretary General to the Prime Minister for Political Affairs Kobsak Pootrakool called the decision a first step in relaxing its inbound passenger control. The Hong Kong SAR Government explained that a newly established inter-departmental team will start a discussion with relevant departments in the Thai government in the coming week or two. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said: "This is very encouraging news for both Hong Kong and Thailand. If the special relaxation arrangements for cross-border control can be established between the two places, cross-border business exchange can be gradually resumed for Hong Kong, which is set to give a tremendous boost to our economic recovery. "We are confident that we can reach an agreement expeditiously and become one of each other's first partners of the special travel arrangement for cross-border control.” Mr Yau emphasised that precautionary measures will be taken to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. "On establishing the relevant mechanism with Thailand, it is most important to contain the potential risk brought about by the increase of passenger flow and continuously monitor the epidemic development and prevention work of the two places while relaxing the control on inbound passenger traffic progressively. "The overall goal is to strike a balance between economic considerations and epidemic control. The discussion between the two sides will be based on science and aim to formulate simple and practical operation procedures with appropriate health control and protocol. “The relevant discussion will touch on details of the relaxation measures for cross-border control, specific operation arrangements to reduce the risks of spreading the virus across the borders, the provision of transport services and more." The webinar attracted nearly 600 participants from chambers of commerce, small and medium enterprises and start-ups in Hong Kong and Thailand, providing a platform for attendees to share Hong Kong’s experience and insights on applications of innovation and technology to combat the coronavirus disease. It also facilitated Hong Kong enterprises intending to expand into the Thai market to better understand the local business environment, thereby fostering closer economic and trade collaboration with Thailand.
28/06/2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several countries implemented flight restrictions or immigration control measures that made it impossible for many Hong Kong residents to get home. Some were stranded in places rarely heard of. That is why the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents 24-hour Hotline (852) 1868 - operated by the Immigration Department - has been used by thousands of people as their way out since January. Race against timeSenior Immigration Officer Leung Hing-wah and his colleagues have been working tirelessly since the pandemic began. They have one particular goal in mind: bringing Hong Kong residents home safely. The unit has received more than 15,700 requests for assistance via phone calls and emails as at June 24. During its peak time, more than 400 cases were recorded in an hour. “Whenever we receive a request for help, we have to contact the Chinese Embassy or related institutions in that country to comprehend the latest epidemic situation. At the same time, we reach out to different bureaus to see if we can arrange flights to bring back stranded residents,” Mr Leung explained. “If we are not able to evacuate them in a short period of time, we have to see what we can do to help them there.” Leung Hing-wah joined the department’s Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit in 2016. Since then, he has participated in different large-scale rescues in Japan that include the earthquakes in Kumamoto and Hokkaido as well as the aftermath brought by Typhoon Jebi. With previous rescue experience under his belt, Mr Leung played an integral role in the operation to bring home Hong Kong residents stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. “It was a different challenge handling stranded Hong Kong people when I was in Japan. I helped to solve lots of problems - from getting them suitable food to communication issues. More importantly, I was able to provide emotional support after I gained more perspective by walking in their shoes.” He added that this was the most memorable operation for him so far. Three chartered flights were arranged and eventually brought around 200 people home. Some rescued passengers were so grateful that they presented a plaque dedicated to the unit and praised the Government’s efforts in helping them. Dedicated heartApart from Japan, the department also co-ordinated flights for Hong Kong residents stranded in places like Wuhan, Peru, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. In order to run these operations smoothly, personnel at the Immigration Headquarters are equally important. They have to take care of every detail, like providing information on how and when to get to the airport and arranging transport for Hong Kong people. Given the COVID-19 workload has been so massive, the department had to set up a special command centre on another floor of the headquarters to add more staff. Chief Immigration Officer Kwong Wai-yin said at least 500 people were deployed to the unit - in addition to the 26 authorised personnel - to help answer phone calls, reply to emails or work abroad. A similar arrangement was in place for the Great East Japan Earthquake that stuck Japan in March, 2011, she recalled, but the number of people involved is much higher this time because of the unprecedented pandemic situation. “As the supervisor of this unit, I am especially grateful for each colleague who works here. Without a concerted effort, it would be impossible to solve all the problems we face effectively.” Keeping paceDuring the epidemic, Ms Kwong noticed that the channels through which to seek help have advanced a lot from a decade ago. “Smart phones were not popular back then, but they are everywhere nowadays. We are now studying the possibility of using various phone applications, special emails or communication software for Hong Kong citizens to contact us, apart from making international direct dialling calls down the road.” She hopes that by utilising the latest technology, the unit will be able to keep up with the pace and at the same time ensure the department assists everyone who needs help.
24/06/2020
Secretary for Security John Lee today said preparations being carried out by the Security Bureau will ensure it is able to discharge its functions and responsibilities when the national security law is enforced. Mr Lee made the statement after attending a Legislative Council meeting this morning. He said the bureau needs to wait until the proper promulgation of the law to know its exact content and what it requires the bureau to do. “The preparation work is to ensure that when the law is promulgated on which it becomes effective in Hong Kong, how we are going to carry out our duties. “So the preparation work is to ensure that we will be able to discharge the functions and responsibilities. As to how we will carry out those functions and responsibilities, first of all, we will have to wait for the details of the provisions. “We will basically be doing what the law actually asks us to do. If the current practice satisfies the requirements, then we will be basically carrying out our duties in that way.”
23/06/2020
It gives me great pleasure to be speaking at this online briefing session of the China Development Forum (CDF). Last year, for the first time, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was invited to attend and speak at CDF's annual forum held in Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. That was a privilege for me and interacting with many multinational companies was a real opportunity for promoting Hong Kong. Subsequent to that, with the support of CDF, Hong Kong was supposed to have a special session in this year's forum which unfortunately could not materialise because of COVID-19.    At the forum in March last year, I talked about the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area on which an Outline Development Plan was promulgated just a month before then. It was some 15 months ago, but it felt like more distant past because it has been so eventful for Hong Kong since then. I believe that this is an opportune time for me to give you an update about our city. Significant development     The most significant development in Hong Kong recently is no doubt the National People’s Congress’ decision to establish and improve legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security, which is also the theme of today’s briefing session. This decision, which is the first one made by the National People’s Congress in respect of Hong Kong matters, is being hailed as the most significant development in the relationship between the central authorities and the Hong Kong SAR since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland 23 years ago. Its significance is multifaceted. It shows that the central government is determined to restore stability in Hong Kong, after a year of escalating violence and riots since last June. It shows that the central government is determined to protect the vast majority of law-abiding citizens in Hong Kong from the minority who attempted to undermine national security. It also shows that the central government is determined to preserve and better “one country, two systems”, a principle underlying Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity since the Hong Kong SAR was established 23 years ago. As you all know, national security is a matter under the purview of the central authorities, whether it is in China or in any other countries in the world. As the highest organ of state power in China, and Hong Kong SAR being an inalienable part of China, the National People's Congress no doubt has the power under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China to enact legislation for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security. It is true that as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong SAR has been given the duty and obligation to enact local legislation to safeguard national security. But this act of faith in the SAR does not mean that the central authorities have given up their constitutional power, nor should they continue to tolerate risks posed to the nation's sovereignty, security and development interest as a result of a legal vacuum in the Hong Kong SAR. After all, national security is not only about the 7.4 million people in Hong Kong, it affects our country's 1.4 billion population.    As the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR, directly accountable to the Central People's Government and the Hong Kong SAR, I have to acknowledge and confess the hard fact, that is, the Hong Kong SAR is unable to enact laws in relation to national security under Article 23 of the Basic Law under the present circumstances. The almost malfunctioning of the Legislative Council, the anti-establishment camp's open resistance of any national security legislation and the demonisation of Article 23 over the years render it almost impossible to complete the task in the foreseeable future.    Without the necessary legal system and enforcement mechanisms in place, Hong Kong has become a gaping hole in national security. This has become intolerable when our city has been traumatised by the escalating violence fanned by external forces since last June. The emergence of various incidents involving explosives and firearms has posed the risk of terrorism, seriously jeopardising public safety. During this period, organisations advocating Hong Kong independence and self-determination incited protesters, especially young people, to desecrate and burn the national flag openly, vandalise the national emblem and storm the Central People's Government's office in Hong Kong. These acts smeared the implementation of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong and challenged openly the authority of the central government and the Hong Kong SAR Government.    Further, some of the political parties' members proclaimed many times that they would paralyse the Hong Kong SAR Government. Some other people begged for foreign governments to interfere with Hong Kong's affairs or even to impose sanctions on Hong Kong. This kind of behaviour has crossed the baseline of "one country", sabotaging the relationship between the Central People's Government and the Hong Kong SAR, threatening China's sovereignty and national security and challenging the authority of the central government and the Basic Law. It is impossible to expect the central government to turn a blind eye to all these. So, the National People’s Congress’ decision to enact legislation for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security is a strong and direct response to the situation in Hong Kong. It is a decision not taken lightly, and is a decision which is urgently needed to restore stability in Hong Kong and to protect the people's interests. Reassuring provisionsGiven the significance of the National People's Congress decision, it is only natural for people to be eager to know its impact and implications on Hong Kong's future. For many multinational companies which have presence in Hong Kong, I believe that your key concern would be whether Hong Kong will continue to be the ideal place for your companies to thrive. To this, my response would be a resounding yes.    First, the legislation only targets acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security. Obviously these are not acts and activities that law-abiding companies or citizens will be engaged in. The vast majority of people, including the law-abiding multinational companies, should welcome the return of stability and law and order which have made Hong Kong one of the world's safest cities for many years.    Second, the National People’s Congress has made it clear in its decision and the relevant explanatory statement that the legislation will be guided by a number of fundamental principles. These principles include firmly safeguarding national security; upholding and improving "one country, two systems"; adhering to governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law; resolutely opposing external interference; and substantially safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents. From the summary of the explanatory statement to the draft legislation presented to the National People's Congress Standing Committee on June 18, which was carried in a Xinhua report released on June 20, these fundamental principles are clearly enshrined in the proposed legislation which embraced important legal concepts as well as the protection of the legitimate rights and freedoms of individuals. Enactment of national security legislation will not change the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by the Hong Kong SAR; it will have no impact on the Hong Kong SAR’s judicial independence, including that of final adjudication as enshrined in the Basic Law. I believe that both businesses and Hong Kong people should find these provisions very reassuring. When you read some overseas media reports or comments by foreign governments and politicians, you might feel this was not the impression you got. There are allegations that Hong Kong is facing a death knell or the principle of "one country, two systems" is proclaimed dead. But let us pause for a moment and ask: who has the greatest stake in ensuring the continued success of "one country, two systems"? And who has been supporting Hong Kong over the past 23 years to ensure its stability and prosperity? The answer should be obvious. Under the "one country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong's capitalist system, free economy and trusted legal system remain as robust as ever, and the free flow of capital within, into and out of Hong Kong is guaranteed. Hong Kong continues to thrive as an international financial centre, and as a gateway between the Mainland and the world. In short, "one country, two systems" has proved itself to be the best constitutional arrangement for the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. Both the central government and the people of Hong Kong are determined to uphold "one country, two systems". Since the decision has been made, the Hong Kong SAR Government has been fending off quite a lot of unfair criticisms against it, including those from foreign governments. My observations on those behaviours could be summed up by two terms - one is double standards and the other is hypocrisy. On the former, all those countries which have pointed their fingers at China have their own national security legislation in place. And their governments have been using national security reasons to justify many of their awkward acts and decisions. Hong Kong is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China and why would it be inhibited from enacting legislation to protect its own soil and its own nationals? On point about hypocrisy, we have heard vocal remarks about granting citizenship to Hong Kong people or threatening sanctions in order to stand with the people of Hong Kong. We await the likely outcome of these gesturing rhetoric when their own people or domestic politics render those acts unpopular at home.     On our part, we are not unduly worried by such unilateral threat of sanction. Hong Kong will continue to rely on her fundamental strengths of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, free and open trade policy, level playing field, free flow of capital, etc. Hong Kong will remain a welcoming, resilient and competitive global economy, playing an irreplaceable role in bringing international and Mainland markets and companies together.    But I will not shy away from acknowledging the damage done to Hong Kong's competitiveness and international reputation by the escalated violence and perceived insecurity since last June. Since early this year, we lost a few world laurels: the Washington-based Heritage Foundation ranked Hong Kong second in the world in its latest Index of Economic Freedom. The result, after a quarter century of topping the index, was disappointing but not unexpected. The drop in our score was mainly due to security issues which brought down Hong Kong's score in investment freedoms.    In the latest Global Financial Centres Index, Hong Kong dropped from third to sixth, but our strengths on the financial services aspects remain obvious, which cover our freely convertible currency, our world-class banking system and stock market and the professionals who power our financial sector. It helps that Hong Kong again topped the world last year in funds raised through initial public offerings, taking in some US$40 billion. This year, despite an exceedingly challenging environment, we are optimistic as the Hong Kong Exchange has welcomed a couple of major Mainland firms which are listed in the United States to come to Hong Kong for secondary listing.    Just a week ago, the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development released its annual World Competitiveness Yearbook ranking. Hong Kong placed fifth, still ahead of such nations as Sweden, Canada, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. While that was down from second last year, our rankings in government efficiency and business efficiency remained unchanged, at first and second respectively. Moreover, our rankings rose from second to first globally in the legal and regulatory framework indicator, and from 19th to first in exchange rate stability. Such top-of-the-world ratings only reaffirm Hong Kong's institutional strengths, particularly in legal and monetary affairs.    Talking about exchange rate stability, I would like to take the opportunity to squash any rumour surrounding Hong Kong's Linked Exchange Rate System, which ensures that the Hong Kong dollar's exchange rate remains stable with respect to US dollar. The system has served Hong Kong and the world well since it was implemented in 1983, and it will continue to do so. We do not need the United States' approval to implement the system, and we have no plan to change it. We also have the ability to defend it from any malicious attack, given the robust health of the Hong Kong banking sector, and the US$440 billion in our foreign exchange reserve. That, by the way, is more than twice our monetary base. Unique advantagesFurther to our fundamental strengths, we continue to enjoy unique advantages brought about by the continuous opening up of the Mainland economy, and our active participation in major national initiatives including the Belt & Road and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Also, in recent years, we have been doubling our efforts in diversifying our markets, including more focus on the fast-growing ASEAN economies, which as a whole was Hong Kong's second largest trading partner and destined to grow.    So Hong Kong does have a lot of opportunities going forward. What we need most now is for the society to get back to normal. This is not only about what the national security legislation aims to achieve that I mentioned at length, but also about the COVID-19 epidemic. So far, our response has worked well. Hong Kong has never had a complete city lockdown or entirely closed our borders; except the suspension of classes for over four months and the practice of work from home by the Hong Kong SAR Government and many private enterprises, Hong Kong people are generally able to move around. Hong Kong has been among the global communities least affected by the virus in terms of the total number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths, which stood at 1,177 and six respectively. This is due to a collective coming together, with all sectors of the Hong Kong community doing our part for the common cause.    Since a month ago, we have moved into the state of relaxation under the suppress and lift strategy. Most of the social distancing measures have been eased, transit and passenger transfer services at the Hong Kong International Airport resumed, theme parks reopened, and students back to school. Subject to the necessary precautionary measures, basically all business premises can operate now.    Hopefully the easing of the social distancing measures would inject some much needed impetus to the economy. Our economy plunged 8.9% in the first quarter year-on-year, which was a record collapse. Unemployment recently soared to 5.9%, which was the highest in more than 15 years, and the reality is that the figure may go further up, amid hopefully at a slower pace. The latest forecast for 2020 is negative growth of 4% to 7%.    In view of the unprecedented challenge, my Government has taken some exceptional measures to support our enterprises and our people. These measures involve a total of US$37 billion, including the establishment of an Anti-epidemic Fund of over US$20 billion. One of the measures is the Employment Support Scheme, which offers a 50% wage subsidy to employers for a period of six months up to November this year with a view to retaining the jobs of the employees.    In short, we are determined to mitigate the economic fallout of the epidemic, to safeguard businesses and employees as best we can in the short term. In doing so, we hope to ensure Hong Kong's long-term economic recovery. Hong Kong's advantages and the many national initiatives that I talked about just now will serve us well down the road. Above all, Hong Kong people's resilience and our Lion Rock spirit will continue to ensure our success. To conclude, Hong Kong is determined to conquer the political, social and epidemiological crises that have so harmed our economy and shaken our community over the past year. The national security law is our antivirus software and a beacon of hope. It will guide us to a better future and restore our glory as the Pearl of the Orient, a proud Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the online briefing session of the China Development Forum on June 23.

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