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Jan retail sales up 0.9%

The value of total retail sales in January, provisionally estimated at $36.5 billion, rose 0.9% compared with the same month in 2023, the Census & Statistics Department announced today.   After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the provisional estimate represents a 1.2% year-on-year decrease.   Of the total retail sales value in January, online sales accounted for 6.5%. Provisionally estimated at $2.4 billion, the value of this segment went down by 20.9% compared with a year earlier.   Noting that retail sales tend to show greater volatility in the first two months of a year due to the timing of the Lunar New Year, the department said the year-on-year comparison of the figures might have been affected to a certain extent.   The value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts increased 25.2% compared with January 2023.   Increases were also recorded in the sales of other consumer goods not elsewhere classified (up 7

Govt refutes US' allegation

The implementation of the National Security Law has reinforced Hong Kong's position as an international financial and business hub, despite repeated attempts by the US administration to slander the legislation over the last year.   The Government made the remarks in response to the US administration's latest attempt to issue a so-called advisory to US businesses and individuals operating in Hong Kong, adding that its malicious attempts to damage Hong Kong's reputation as a global business hub were doomed to fail.   It also strongly condemned the so-called sanctions imposed on seven deputy directors of the Central People's Government Liaison Office in Hong Kong.   In its response, the Government said the US' move based on totally ridiculous and unfounded fear-mongering about the situation in Hong Kong proved again its hypocrisy and double standards driven by ideological hegemony.   "The main victims of this latest fallout will sadly be those US businesses and US citizens who have taken Hong Kong as their home," it noted.   Contrary to the US administration's allegation, developments since the implementation of the National Security Law are characterised by safety, security and stability.   Business confidence has been restored when their operations are no longer under the threat of terrorist acts, street violence and personal intimidation. Such sentiments are widely reported at seminars, opinion surveys and press articles by community leaders on the first anniversary of the enactment of the National Security Law.   The Government pointed out that Article 1 of the National Security Law passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress states, first and foremost, that the purpose of enacting this law is to ensure the full and faithful implementation of the policy of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region enjoying a high degree of autonomy; safeguarding national security; and maintaining Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.   Referring to such acts of the central authorities over Hong Kong as oppressive actions is a fallacy that could hardly stand up to challenge.   The Government also stated that the National Security Law is the major turning point in Hong Kong's transition from chaos to order and its effect in stabilising society is indisputable.   Over the year-long period before the implementation of the National Security Law, the Hong Kong community was badly traumatised. Organisations advocating Hong Kong independence and self-determination blatantly challenged the authority of the central authorities and the Hong Kong SAR Government. Terrorist activities were orchestrated by radicals. Public facilities were vandalised with violence and enforcement actions by Police were obstructed.   Moreover, anti-China factions colluded with foreign or external forces to interfere with the affairs of China and the Hong Kong SAR, and mobilised international forces to impose sanctions on Hong Kong, totally disregarding the interests of the country and Hong Kong people and seriously endangering national security.   After the implementation of the National Security Law, stability has been restored in society and Hong Kong people can once again enjoy their legitimate rights and freedoms.   Besides, the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong are as robust as ever.   The Judiciary operates independently as in the past, exercising the independent judicial power enshrined in the Basic Law. The Chief Executive continues to appoint senior and prominent judges from overseas common law jurisdictions as non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal on the recommendations of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission as stipulated in the Basic Law.   In the past year, one distinguished judge from the UK was newly appointed and three other overseas judges agreed to extend their services, resulting in a total of 13 non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal from other common law jurisdictions at present.   The willingness of these distinguished judges to participate in the work of the Hong Kong courts is the best evidence of the city's judicial independence, the Government said.   Furthermore, under the National Security Law, Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre has not wavered at all.   In the past 12 months, the initial public offering funds raised in Hong Kong exceeded $500 billion, representing an increase of more than 50% compared to the previous 12 months. The linked exchange rate system has, as always, worked well. The Hong Kong dollar market recorded net capital inflows in 2020. In the four months from the implementation of the National Security Law in July to October last year, the amount of funds flowing into the Hong Kong dollar system exceeded $300 billion.   Also, the total deposits in the Hong Kong banking system have increased by more than 5% over last year, while the net asset value of funds management in Hong Kong at the end of last year increased by some 20% over the end of 2019. These figures clearly showed that investors have not been deterred by the National Security Law.   Noting that the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success remains intact, the Government said the defamatory remarks in the US' advisory that US businesses maintaining a presence or staff in Hong Kong should consider the potential reputational, economic and legal risks could hardly be substantiated.   It also believed that foreign politicians who continue to query and smear the National Security Law despite the clear evidence were motivated by a broader geopolitical agenda to suppress China.   "The latest moves by the US are a continuation of US' blatant interference in the internal affairs of the People's Republic of China and the Hong Kong SAR.   "In doing so, the US is clearly breaching not only the principle of non-intervention under international law but also the principle of sovereign equality which expressly sets out that the territorial integrity and political independence of the state are inviolable."   The Government noted that Hong Kong, as a free and open economy as well as an international city, will continue to welcome overseas businesses including US ones to set up offices in Hong Kong and to use Hong Kong as their regional headquarters or regional offices.   The abundant opportunities arising from the nation's 14th Five-Year Plan, in particular the support given to Hong Kong and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area are certainly appreciated by the international business community in Hong Kong as illustrated in their recent words and deeds about the business environment.   "Hong Kong has not been undermined by the National Security Law. On the contrary, it has become stronger, better and more attractive to businesses. Continuous pressure from the US is not going to hamper those prospects," the Government added.

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