<!–enpproperty 2019-10-31 07:15:22.0
Chief executive pledges to combat internal and external challenges and to restore peace to HK
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and police are determined to end the more than four months of social unrest and restore law and order as soon as possible, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Wednesday.
To deal with external challenges, as well as the internal disruption, the government’s top priority is to stop the violence and restore law and order as nothing justifies violence, she told the Asia House Future of Trade Conference in Central.
Working in concert with the police, who have displayed courage and restraint, every government agency is determined to bring the turmoil to an end, Lam said.
She reiterated the significance of the cornerstones underpinning Hong Kong’s success as a financial and trading hub, including “one country, two systems”, the rule of law and the institutional strengths.
Feeling the pinch
Lam said it has been a “distressing time” for Hong Kong’s trade and businesses as the past few months of violent protests have seriously hurt the local economy.
The reality is that the protests have crippled the retail, catering, and transport sector, as well as enterprises associated with the tourism industry, she added.
Buffeted at the same time by the global economic slowdown and external uncertainties, which are likely to persist for some time, the SAR, as a major entrepot for trans-Pacific trade and commerce powered largely by small and medium-sized enterprises, has seen its economy suffer.
In the first nine months of this year, the value of Hong Kong’s total exports of goods dived 4.6 percent year-on-year, while the value of goods imports plummeted 6.5 percent. Shipping and logistics also took a hit.
With the protests entering their fifth straight month, the number of visitors to the city in the first half of this month tumbled by about 50 percent compared to last year, according to Lam. Retail sales in August alone were down 25 percent from a year earlier – the steepest year-on-year decline on record for a single month.
Lam pledged the SAR government is committed to finding solutions to the deep-seated problems exposed by the extensive protests, including the social divide and insufficient inclusive growth.
“We must also find a way of returning trust to a divided community. And we will not rest. I will not rest until we have found a peaceful, harmonious and inclusive path to the future for Hong Kong,” she said.
Local economy is expected to record negative growth this year. In mid-August, the government lowered the city’s economic growth forecast from 2 to 3 percent, to 0 to 1 percent, due to a “remarkably increasing risk of recession”. Economic data for the third quarter are expected to be released today (Thursday).
Meanwhile, Hong Kong remains unchanged in its international connectivity and high degree of autonomy, Lam said.
The SAR, home to more than 600 companies from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, had forged free-trade agreements and investment pacts with the 10-member grouping last year. The agreements have now come into force for Hong Kong and the ASEAN member states, according to Lam.
The government expects all the ASEAN member states to fully ratify the two agreements within this year, she added.
“We’re also working to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free-trade agreement between ASEAN and six of its FTA partners,” Lam said.
Riding high on the nation’s two visionary initiatives – the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan and the Belt and Road Initiative – Hong Kong is playing an active role in driving the 11-city cluster’s development in financial services, trade development, transport and innovation and technology within the Bay Area.
“My government has been working with Guangdong and Macao to market the Bay Area overseas, including promotions in Tokyo in April this year and Paris last year. We’ll do the same in Australia in the coming year,” Lam said.
Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, delivers a keynote speech at the Asia House Future of Trade Conference on Wednesday. While she acknowledged that Hong Kong’s economy could face a debilitating crisis as a result of the prolonged turmoil, she pledged the government will continue effort to bring peace and order back to the city. Information Services Department
(HK Edition 10/31/2019 page4)