Hong Kong Leader Vows Closer Ties With Beijing in Key Speech

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam vowed to continue strengthening ties with China, using an annual policy address to defend Beijing’s tightening grip over the financial hub and announce new steps to boost economic links with the mainland.

In a speech on Wednesday that was delayed in order for her to consult Communist Party leaders in Beijing, Lam said her administration’s aim was to restore confidence following another tumultuous year. She spoke against the backdrop of anew wave of virus infections, aneconomy in deep contraction, worseningwealth inequality and political turmoil.

“The primary objective of this policy address is to look at ways to get Hong Kong out of the impasse and to restore people’s confidence as soon as possible,” she said in the speech, which cited President Xi Jinping’s vision for Hong Kong at the outset.

Lam said Hong Kong’s economy can benefit “from its proximity to the mainland and the central government’s long-standing support under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.” The city’s “economic development will be given new impetus” by relations with China, she said.

The chief executive also outlined a number of economic and financial measures:

  • Double stamp duty for commercial property will bescrapped from Thursday. No plans to adjust the duty for residential property
  • Hong Kong to add eligible biotech stocks tostock connect program with China and expand the scope of it
  • The government is considering easing restrictions on the real estate investment trust industry
  • HK$600 million in relief measures will be allocated for the tourism sector
  • A new Greater Bay Area youth employment scheme will be introduced to place several hundreds of job-seekers in positions in information & technology
  • Lam said Beijing had “no alternative but to step in and take action” following pro-democracy protests
  • Department of Justice to implement “Vision 2030 for Rule of Law”
  • China to help Hong Kong procure vaccines for virus
  • Lam proposed injecting HK$1 billion to support creative industries
Read more on Hong Kong:
  • H.K. to Expand China Trading Link to Star Board, Biotech Stocks
  • Lam Faces Pandemics-to-Politics Test in Key Hong Kong Address
  • HSBC Shares Surge on Optimism Turnaround Will Build Steam
  • Hong Kong to Close Bars, Nightclubs From Thursday Due to Virus
  • Xi Challenges Biden With Move to Snuff Out Hong Kong Dissent

As Lam spoke, the Hang Seng Index pared a gain of as much as 1.7% to end the morning session 0.9% higher.

A resurgence in virus cases prompted new restrictions Tuesday, with the governmentshutting down bars and nightclubs and limiting the number of people at banquets. The outbreak has already delayed a Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble in a blow to the economy and efforts to reopen the city.

The government has already allocated more than HK$310 billion ($40 billion) in virus stimulus this year and its tight fiscal situation means there’s limited room for more spending, Lam has said.

The economy is set tocontract 6.1% this year, with mixed signs recently of a recovery. Exports resumed theirdeclilne in October after a strong gain in the previous month. Bloomberg Economics’ high frequencydashboard shows subdued activity before the latest social distancing measures were imposed.

— With assistance by Kari Soo Lindberg, David Watkins, and Karen Leigh

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