Persevering amidst adversities over the past 23 years
Continuing our success on the right path
28 June 2020
Hong Kong has persevered amidst adversities over the past 23 years since its return to the motherland. With the country’s full support and concerted efforts from Hong Kong people, the Special Administrative Region has made remarkable progress in economic, social and infrastructural development, successfully implemented “One Country, Two Systems”, and achieved resounding success that has attracted the world’s attention.
Successful implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”
The Basic Law provides a clear legal basis and constitutional framework for implementing the basic policies of “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), laying a solid foundation for the city’s long-term development, prosperity and stability.
Possessing long-standing institutional strengths, including an internationalised and extremely business-friendly environment, the rule of law and judicial independence, a simple and low tax regime, free flow of capital as well as an open and flexible market, the HKSAR has developed into an international financial, shipping and trading centre and a global hub for offshore Renminbi business. Its success and enduring international reputation are also underpinned by a world-class financial system, superb transport and communications infrastructures and a highly efficient government.
Following its reunification with the motherland in 1997, Hong Kong has seen significant growth and rapid development in the economy which has since doubled in size in dollar terms, exceeding HK$2,800 billion in 2019. Throughout these years, Hong Kong’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 3% per annum, outperforming that of advanced economies at 2% per annum. Its per capita nominal GDP reached US$48,700 in 2019, surpassing Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Proactive development for better livelihood and quality talent
Over the past 23 years, the HKSAR Government has strived to build a caring and inclusive society by attaching great importance to improving people’s livelihood as well as the well-being of workers and the grassroots. To this end, various initiatives, including the statutory minimum wage, paternity leave, Working Family Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance and $2 transport fare concession scheme for the elderly, were introduced for the benefit of members of the community.
From 1997 to 2018, total employment in Hong Kong increased by some 700 000, reaching a record annual high of 3 870 000. In 2019, however, the figure dropped by about 20 000 to 3 850 000 as Hong Kong’s economy was hard hit by social violence in the second half of the year. In fact, the labour market had been close to full employment and gradually tightening in recent years prior to the social incidents. Unemployment rate edged down from 3.6% in the second quarter of 2011 to 2.8% in February to April 2018, and maintained at this level until the second quarter of 2019.
Hong Kong has been actively nurturing talent. The share of labour force with tertiary education (excluding foreign domestic helpers) doubled to 44.6% in 2019 as compared to that in 1997. Meanwhile, an increasing supply of higher-skilled workers has enabled the economy to climb up the value chain amidst keen global competition.
Weathering storm after storm
Hong Kong has, of course, been faced with multiple headwinds since the reunification, but we did manage to weather storm after storm and proceed steadily ahead, a perfect demonstration indeed of the full and successful implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”.
The COVID-19 outbreak has brought us exceptional challenges over the past six months. But thanks to the solid foundation and resilience that we have, with the efforts of the public and preparedness and responsiveness of the Government, the epidemic is easing in Hong Kong.
National security legislation - the best decision to make
Having survived all these, Hong Kong, however, was unprecedentedly traumatised by the spate of violent incidents in the past year. Radicals blatantly challenged the Central and HKSAR Governments by advocating “Hong Kong independence” and “self-determination”, seriously infringing upon the bottom-line of the “One Country” principle. This, coupled with the inadequacies of Hong Kong’s legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security, has made Hong Kong a gaping hole in the security of our country.
Under such circumstances, the enactment of the national security law in the HKSAR provides the best solution to reinforce the effective operation of “One Country, Two Systems” and ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, which will enable Hong Kong to get back on track and start anew. The national security law aims to prevent, curb and sanction an extremely small minority of law-breakers who threaten national security, and protect the overwhelmingly majority of law-abiding citizens in Hong Kong by safeguarding their lives, property, basic rights and freedoms guaranteed under the law.
Social security and political stability are indispensable for Hong Kong to maintain its position as an international city and a business hub. The national security law will strengthen the city’s capacity and competitiveness as an international financial and commercial centre, making it safer, more stable and more secure.
We have always asked our young people to stay on the right track and reminded them that any wrongdoings may cost them their future. Similarly, if the HKSAR can be back on track, infinite possibilities will await its future development. Hong Kong has always had, and will continue to have the strong backing of the motherland. We must fully support the national security law and leverage on the advantages of “One Country, Two Systems” to ensure the long-term stability and safety of Hong Kong which will enable it to scale new heights.
Relief measures coming in waves
The Government recognises that our economy and society have been going through immense difficulties in the past year. We care about the well-being of our people and are committed to addressing their pressing needs. In this difficult time, we have launched a series of beneficial and relief measures through two rounds of Anti-epidemic Fund totalling $150.5 billion and the Budget to support enterprises, safeguard jobs and relieve people’s burden. Some of the measures will be fully implemented in late June and early July. They include:
$10,000 Cash Payout Scheme
The Government will disburse $10,000 to each Hong Kong permanent resident aged 18 or above. Registration began last Sunday (June 21) and payment will be made from July 8 onwards.
One extra month’s social security payment and transport subsidy
Starting June 12, the Government has provided one extra month’s payment for the recipients of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), allowances under the Social Security Allowance Scheme (including Old Age Allowance, Old Age Living Allowance and Disability Allowance), as well as the Individual-based Work Incentive Transport Subsidy. This one-off payment is expected to benefit about 1.4 million people.
Delivering free masks to all residential addresses in Hong Kong
The Government will deliver free masks to approximately 2.88 million residential addresses in the territory through Hongkong Post starting this Tuesday (June 30). Each household will receive a pack of ten disposable adult masks. Pre-registration is not required.
Relieving the burden of travelling expenses on the public
The monthly threshold of the Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme will be temporarily relaxed from $400 to $200 for six months starting July 1, benefitting about 3.8 million people. The Mass Transit Railway Corporation Limited will also provide a 20% fare reduction for six months, with the expenditure to be borne by the Government on a 50:50 matching basis.
“Assistance Programme to Improve the Living Environment of Low-income Subdivided Unit Households”
The Programme will be launched at the end of this month to provide a one-off non-cash subsidy for low-income subdivided unit (SDU) households to carry out minor improvement/repair works at home, purchase furniture and household goods as well as obtain pest control services, thereby improving their living environment. The measure will benefit around 24 000 SDU households.
“One-off Living Subsidy for Low-income Households Not Living in Public Housing and Not Receiving CSSA” Programme (2020 and 2021)
Under the Programme, two rounds of living subsidies will be disbursed to the “N have-nots” (i.e. low-income households not living in public housing and not receiving CSSA). The provision for the first-round subsidy will be $1,118,180,000 and is expected to benefit around 105 500 households (about 272 000 persons). The Programme will be open for applications in stages starting July 2.
Raising the payment rates of Working Family Allowance
The payment rates (including those of working-hour linked household allowance and Child Allowance) under the Working Family Allowance Scheme will be raised from the claim month of July 2020. Taking a four-person household with two children as an example, the maximum allowance receivable will increase by more than 30% from $3,200 to $4,200 per month.