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Monday, October 28, 2019, 01:56
FS warns of 'technical recession' as protests persist
By China Daily
Monday, October 28, 2019, 01:56 By China Daily

Rioters set fire to Mong Kok MTR station on Sunday, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Hong Kong’s financial chief warned on Sunday the city is on the cusp of a “technical recession” with negative growth this year as the four-month-old social turmoil continues, with rioters on the rampage again on the 21st consecutive weekend of unrest. 

The economy had continued to shrink in the third quarter, significantly expanding its negative growth rate, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po wrote in his Sunday blog. The government will unveil initial growth estimates for the third quarter on Thursday. 

It seems it’s extremely difficult to achieve the initial forecast of zero to one percent of our annual economic growth...there’re still no signs of a recovery

Paul Chan Mo-po, Financial Secretary of HKSAR

“It seems it’s extremely difficult to achieve the initial forecast of zero to one percent of our annual economic growth,” he said, pointing out there’re still no signs of a recovery. 

“The blow to our economy is comprehensive,” said Chan. 

According to the Census and Statistics Department, the value of Hong Kong’s total exports dived by 7.3 percent year-on-year last month. For the third quarter, it sank by 6.4 percent, and the volume of exports is projected to see the biggest single-quarter decline in the past decade — down over 7 percent — according to Chan. 

Tourist arrivals had seen a sharper drop in August and September, with a collective reduction of 37 percent and, even worse, tourist arrivals have fallen more rapidly this month, reflecting the dire circumstances facing the tourism industry. 

The average occupancy rate of hotel rooms in August plummeted by 28 percentage points year-on-year to 66 percent. The hotel industry reported it took the worst hit in September and October since the 2003 SARS outbreak in 2003. 

Data showed that Hong Kong’s retail sales volume tumbled 25.3 percent year-on-year in August — a significant deterioration from July’s 13.1-percent contraction and was the sharpest annual decline in retail sales since records began.

Chan pledged that the HKSAR government will roll out more measures to ease the pressure on various industries, but he urged all sectors to unite to curb the violence, end vandalism targeting traffic infrastructure, stores, banks and institutions and reject the concept of “if we burn, you burn with us”. 

By so doing, it would be possible to respond to and solve the demands and problems facing various sectors of the community, he said. 

Rioters again swarmed the prime commercial and tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday before marching up to Jordan and Mong Kok, fighting running street battles with the police, smashing up stores, setting fires to entrances of metro railway stations and erecting barricades that clogged up traffic along major streets.

The protesters resorted to guerrilla-style tactics by moving around different locations in central Kowloon, hurling gasoline bombs at police officers. 

Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei MTR stations were forced to close early and suspended train services due to the chaos. 

Several brawls also broke out as the tension escalated. An elderly man in Mong Kok was seen bleeding on the head after being beaten up by radical protesters. The victim, whose shirt was almost entirely ripped off, was set upon after protesters accused him of taking close-up pictures of them.

The SAR government strongly condemned the rioters’ acts, pointing out that they have seriously undermined social order and jeopardized people’s lives and property. A government spokesman again appealed to protesters not to fall foul of the law and advised members of the public to stay away from scenes of protests for their personal safety.


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