Hong Kong to hold more events to boost tourism, consumption: chief executive

Visitors enjoy the fireworks that lights up the night sky over Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on May 1,2024. Photo: VCG

Visitors enjoy the fireworks that lights up the night sky over Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong on May 1,2024. Photo: VCG

 

The chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) announced on Tuesday that the city will hold 60 more major events in 2024, in a bid to attract more tourists, boost consumption and lift the regional economy. 

The announcement comes as the Chinese central government has also taken steps to boost visits to Hong Kong and Macao. The plan to hold more promotional events will help the HKSAR to improve the competitiveness of its tourism industry, and attract more visits from both the Chinese mainland and other areas, experts said.

The number of major events for the whole year will increase from 150 to over 210, with 1.7 million tourists expected, John Lee Ka-chiu, the HKSAR chief executive, told reporters in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

In the second half of the year, 100 events are planned, including entertainment expos and fashion weeks. These events are forecast to generate HK$7.2 billion ($923.58 million) in consumption and add HK$4.3 billion in economic value for the city, according to Lee. 

Hong Kong recorded 14.62 million visitors in the first four months of 2024, doubling the number from the same period last year, which will push HK’s GDP up 0.1 percent for every increase of 1.5 million visitors, Lee said on Tuesday. 

Lee highlighted the sharp rise in mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong, stressing its positive impact on the events economy. To capitalize on this, the SAR government will continue to request more favorable policies from the central government, such as increasing the tax-free quota for mainland visitors to boost retail, particularly luxury goods sales. 

The Chinese central government has also taken major steps to support visits to Hong Kong and Macao, including extending the duration of business visits from seven days per visit to 14 days.  

Furthermore, Lee emphasized Hong Kong’s increasing hospitality capacity. Also, its aviation sector is expected to fully recover by year-end, attracting a greater number of long-haul travelers. 

Lee stated that around 1,600 tour groups joined the local cultural tourism program organized by the government. Over 700 new itinerary routes were created through the tourism competition hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Council. He highlighted ongoing innovation and adaptation in Hong Kong’s tourism and related sectors. 

The SAR government’s “First Quarter Economic Report for 2024” revealed modest growth in Hong Kong’s economy, with real GDP up 2.7 percent year-on-year. Service exports, especially in tourism and transportation, drove this growth, rising over 8 percent due to increased visitor arrivals. 

In the past two years, there has been a decline in cultural and tourism spending in Hong Kong. Even local residents are increasingly opting to travel to mainland destinations like Shenzhen due to lower prices and convenient transportation, market observers said.

“Increasing events to boost consumption may be a long-term method. The government aims to redirect local spending back to Hong Kong while boosting confidence among all tourists, refocusing attention on the city,” Song Ding, a research fellow from the China Development Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

“Due to the importance of tourists from the mainland, Hong Kong needs to optimize its tourism market structure and enhance its competitiveness to attract more visitors and boost spending,” said Adolph Leung Wing-sing, an official from HK’s Office of the Government Economist (OGE). 

“Hong Kong is a uniquely attractive tourist destination, combining Chinese tradition with Western charm as an international city. The added events amplify its distinctiveness and boost its competitiveness. I believe more tourists, both domestic and international, will visit in the future,” Jiang Yiyi, a vice president of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

GT investigates: How anti-China forces launch a cognitive warfare against Hong Kong, demonize Article 23 legislation

Editor’s Note:


“Cognitive Warfare” has become a new form of confrontation between states, and a new security threat. With new technological means, it sets agendas and spreads disinformation, to change people’s perceptions and thus alter their self-identity. Launching cognitive warfare against China is an important means for Western anti-China forces to attack and discredit the country. 

Some politicians and media outlets have publicly smeared China’s image by propagating false narratives in an attempt to incite and provoke dissatisfaction with China among people in certain countries. These means all serve the seemingly peaceful evolution of the US strategy to contain China’s rise and maintain its hegemony. The Global Times is publishing a series of articles to reveal the intrigues of the US-led West’s China-targeted cognitive warfare, and expose its lies and vicious intentions. 

In the 12th installment in the series, the Global Times looks into the tricks that some external forces and anti-China elements used to launch a cognitive warfare against Hong Kong and how the newly passed Safeguarding National Security Ordinance can punish and deter them.

Hong Kong, China Photo: VCG

Hong Kong, China Photo: VCG

The Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, a piece of legislation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law Article 23 that took effect recently after being unanimously passed by local lawmakers, is another solid legal basis for maintaining stability and prosperity in the city after the implementation of national security law for Hong Kong. The bill is expected to play an essential role in preventing the US-led West’s subversion, infiltration, incitement, and espionage activities in Hong Kong.

Days before the bill was passed on March 19, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) strongly condemned a joint statement by anti-China group “Hong Kong Watch” and 16 signatories that smeared the Basic Law Article 23 legislation. 

“Not only is ‘Hong Kong Watch’ an anti-China organization, but also many of its members are anti-China forces in the front line,” said a spokesman for the regional government.

A main subversion target of foreign forces that attempt to undermine China’s national security and social stability, Hong Kong has been plagued by Western-led cognitive warfare. Colluding with a few local secessionists, anti-China forces in the West have been hyping up false narratives to demonize the management of the central government and the HKSAR government.

Experts in Hong Kong affairs pointed out that from the “China collapse theory” to the “Hong Kong collapse theory,” these clichés are nothing, but some “deluded clown scripts” with the aim of misleading Hong Kong residents and whitewashing the former British colony’s rule.

A view of the Legislative Council chamber as the 2nd reading of the Article 23 security law continues, in Hong Kong, on March 19, 2024. Photo: VCG

A view of the Legislative Council chamber as the 2nd reading of the Article 23 of the Basic Law continues, in Hong Kong, on March 19, 2024. Photo: VCG


Tumors to Hong Kong’s stability

Anti-China organization “Hong Kong Watch,” together with 16 co-signatories, released a statement last month, which deliberately smeared the requirement of “disclosure of commission by others of the offense of treason” in the Basic Law Article 23 legislation of targeting religions, in an attempt to provoke discontent among religious leaders and followers. 

Responding to this statement full of loopholes, the HKSAR government expressed strong condemnation in a press release it published online on March 14.

The offenses of treason and misprision of treason, whether in Hong Kong or other common law jurisdictions, have existed for a long time; they do not target religious leaders or followers, and have nothing to do with freedom of religion, said a government spokesperson in the press release. 

“‘Hong Kong Watch’ and the co-signatories have not mentioned the relevant provisions in the countries concerned before groundlessly attacking the HKSAR Government’s legislative work on safeguarding national security under the guise of religious freedom. It is a blatant, shameless, and barbaric intervention, and is also a typical example of double standards,” the spokesperson noted.

Based in London, “Hong Kong Watch” was founded by Benedict Rogers, deputy chairman of the British Conservative Party’s human rights commission who had participated in drafting the so-called “Hong Kong Autonomy Act” and pressed the US to pass the bill.

In 2017, Rogers was denied entry by the HKSAR government when he planned to visit imprisoned separatists Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, reported Hong Kong media outlet Ta Kung Pao.

“Hong Kong Watch” is an unmitigated “concentration camp” for overseas forces and anti-China elements disrupting Hong Kong. One of its sponsors, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten, is an infamous anti-China politician who had attempted to disrupt the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, and had even tried to turn Hong Kong into a semi-independent political entity.

Along with other secessionist groups, “Hong Kong Watch” is a tumor that threatens Hong Kong’s social stability. As early as March 2022, the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force issued a warning to the group, pointing out that it had violated Article 29 of the national security law for Hong Kong
  “collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security” and demanded the removal of the group’s website content within 72 hours. 

Scanning the “Hong Kong Watch” statement, the 16 co-signatories displayed at the bottom are also notorious overseas anti-China organizations and individuals.

Co-signatory Freedom House, for instance, was initially created in the 1940s to oppose communism in Europe. It later worked as a think tank for the US Department of Defense. With a long-term habit of interfering in China’s internal affairs, Freedom House was sanctioned by China in December 2019 for its role in that year’s unrest in Hong Kong.

Another co-signatory ChinaAid is a so-called nonprofit group that tries to infiltrate China through smearing the country’s religious policies. On its website, ChinaAid lists the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US government’s main “white gloves” and the mastermind behind many separatist riots globally, as its major partner.

Hong Kong residents and tourists visit the Golden Bauhinia Square on March 23, 2024. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong residents and tourists visit the Golden Bauhinia Square on March 23, 2024. Photo: VCG

Major cognitive warfare tricks

Looking into the cognitive warfare tricks by external forces and anti-China elements disrupting Hong Kong, they attack the management of the central government and the HKSAR government mainly by using the excuse of “human rights, religious freedom violation” and badmouthing Hong Kong’s economy, the Global Times found. 

ChinaAid, as mentioned above, is a US-based group established in 2002 by anti-China pastor “Bob” Fu Xiqiu. The group has long supported underground Christian churches within China and their illegal activities, according to several Chinese scholars and government officials reached by the Global Times.

In previous years, ChinaAid has fostered and trained its Chinese members outside the Chinese mainland, said Zhou Shan (pseudonym), a former grassroots-level official in East China’s Zhejiang Province who had been participating in religion management in rural areas in Zhejiang for years.

A usual trick employed by ChinaAid in interfering with and smearing China’s religious policies is opening unregistered religious venues and organizing illegal activities. They would hype up “religious persecution” if the local government prohibits these activities in accordance with the law, Zhou told the Global Times. 

In short, ChinaAid usually intentionally misrepresented China’s ban on unlawful activities as a crackdown on religious freedom or human rights. 

Badmouthing Hong Kong’s economic performance is another main trick of their cognitive warfare against the city. 

Hong Kong lawmaker Stanley Ng Chau-pei cited three examples. The first is the claim that Hong Kong’s economic status would be “replaced” by another country or city, such as Shanghai, Macao, or its main “competitor” Singapore. The second is hyping up disinformation that “the central government ‘mainlandized’ Hong Kong,” trying to create panic by spreading the rumor that Hong Kong will no longer enjoy SAR “special treatment” in trade and finance. The third is amplifying a pessimistic outlook with eye-grabbing claims, such as calling Hong Kong the “ruins of the international financial center.”

“Behind these claims is their purposes to undermine Hong Kong’s confidence in its own development, and the confidence of global investors and talents in Hong Kong,” Ng noted.

And these claims are laughably ridiculous in the face of Hong Kong’s robust economic performance. 

A survey released by the HKSAR government in December 2023 showed that, the city saw the opening of 9,039 companies with parent companies outside Hong Kong in 2023, a recovery to pre-pandemic high levels. 

Start-ups in Hong Kong also continued to flourish with the number of start-ups reaching a record high of 4,257, up 272 from 2023.

These data are undoubtedly a powerful counter-narrative against these stigmatization, and fully prove that Hong Kong’s investment attractiveness remains, Ng said.

Hong Kong residents gather on June 30, 2020, to express support to the decision of Chinese lawmakers to adopt the Law on Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong residents gather on June 30, 2020, to express support to the decision of Chinese lawmakers to adopt the national security law for Hong Kong. Photo: VCG

The will of the people in Hong Kong

There was a great round of applause at the Legislative Council of the HKSAR on March 19, when the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance was unanimously passed.

The day was a historic moment for Hong Kong, a proud moment when the HKSAR jointly wrote a glorious history, HKSAR Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said after the vote.

The bill is the will of the people in Hong Kong. Public consultation results showed that, about 99 percent of the 13,147 submissions had spoken in support of the legislation, said local authorities in March.

Legal experts based in Hong Kong pointed out that the ordinance and the national security law for Hong Kong can, together, pose effective penalties, restrictions, and deterrence to the infiltration activities of anti-China forces and separatists, including their dirty cognitive warfare tricks.

The two are organically linked and complement each other. They can regulate criminals who engage in activities and acts that endanger national security outside the territory of Hong Kong, Willy Fu, a law professor who is also the director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times.

The Safeguarding National Security Ordinance came into force in Hong Kong on March 23. The law listed a series of offences and penalties including offences such as treason, insurrection, acts with seditious intention, external interference and theft of state secrets and espionage.

The heads of website platforms that published seditious content have legal and social responsibilities to immediately remove propaganda or illegal information that endangers national security, Fu said. 

He explained that, if the Commissioner of Police has reasonable grounds to suspect that electronic information published on an electronic platform is likely to constitute an offense endangering national security, or is likely to lead to the occurrence of such an offense, they may, with the approval of the Secretary for Security, authorize designated police personnel to require the relevant publishers, platform service providers, hosting service providers, and (or) network service providers to remove the information that endangers national security; restrict or halt anyone from accessing that information; or restrict or halt anyone from accessing that platform or relevant parts thereof.

“Hong Kong is a society governed by the rule of law, where laws must be followed and violators will be prosecuted,” Fu remarked.

Well calibration of fiscal, monetary policies to ensure 5% GDP growth in China

A view of the Lujiazui area in Shanghai Photo: VCG

A view of the Lujiazui area in Shanghai Photo: VCG

A well-calibrated fiscal and monetary policy combination, being crafted and orchestrated by Chinese government, will help resolve the intrinsic problems hidden in China’s economy. An aggressive fiscal stimulus, coupled with proactive while prudent monetary policy, is generally thought to provide the economy with sustainable energy, shepherding it to grow by around 5 percent in 2024. 

Independent economists of many international organizations give high marks for Chinese economic policymakers’ learning and wit in blending the monetary and fiscal policies in the past four decades to shore up rapid economic growth, and at the same time successfully resisted the cyclical pressures of inflation and deflation. 

Entering 2024, China’s economy has to overcome the “scar effect” left by the COVID pandemic, including a relatively lackluster domestic consumption and a churning real estate market. Amid the lingering concern about another public health upheaval, the people now tend to snap shut their pocketbooks, and the millennials and generation Z are increasingly hesitant to raise children.

Under these circumstances, the traditional days of steadily growing consumer prices are gone, as China witnessed several months of negative CPI growths in the second half of 2023. To deal with the deflationary pressure, China’s central bank moved to reduce the bellwether loan prime rates (LPR) of both one-year and five-year lengths. Last month, the central bank went aggressive, cutting the five-year LPR by a full quarter percentage, which also has the effect of ramping up the country’s humdrum housing sales as mortgage rates are slashed too. 

Meanwhile, the policy-makers decided to introduce proactive fiscal stimulus measures to fuel up public spending and economic growth. 

In 2024 alone, at least 4.9 trillion yuan of central and provincial government bonds will be sold, with the proceeds to be channeled to building up important public infrastructure projects and fostering new quality productive forces to meet China’s massive market demand for home-grown advanced semiconductor chips, newest AI and algorithm innovations, nationwide 5.5-G mobile network coverage and highly efficient digital business platforms – able to catapult China’s economy to new heights of growth before 2050.

China is determined to “choose transition from high rates to high-quality of growth,” said International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva at the just concluded China Development Forum held in Beijing. In her speech to the event, she remarked that China has entered a new era of economic growth, and the country will continue to be a key driver of and a contributor to global economic growth in the coming years.

And, renowned US economist Nicholas Lardy, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Chinese media that it is unwarranted for many media pundits in the West to disseminate the narrative that “China’s economy is collapsing” and faces a catastrophic outcome. Instead the economy is recovering, and last year’s 5.2 percent GDP growth “is impressive” among major economies. 

For a long time, one of the important reasons why the Chinese economy has been able to scale new heights constantly by overcoming domestic difficulties and withstanding external headwinds is its deep understanding of economic laws, and the decision makers’ creative ways to exploring new and potent growth drivers, as well as the country’s firm determination to implement systemic restructuring, such as the country’s unswerving focus on developing clean renewable energies and battery-powered electric trucks and cars.  

Georgieva thought highly of China’s green development. She described China as a global leader in deploying renewable energy with enormous potential, adding that China was making rapid progress in green mobility. China’s remarkable development success has delivered tremendous benefits to hundreds of millions of people in the world, she said.

Georgieva said that China’s high-quality development still has a bearing to deepening marketed-regulated reforms and giving priority to private sector growth. Deep structural reforms can enhance the conditions for entrepreneurship, innovation and economic performance. For example, a boost to government finances at the macro level could allow some tailored micro changes in taxation policies on businesses to foster fast growth of new enterprises, aligned with the central bank’s monetary policy to increase liquidity through reserve ratio reductions and interest rate cuts. 

And, ramped-up government spending is a key component of aggregate demand that can be strategically important for economic development. China’s central government has announced the issuance of new ultra-long special treasury bonds in each of the following several years to focus on funding major national projects. No matter it is the development of industrial parks, transportation hubs, public services and highly educated and skilled Chinese work force, government spending is indispensable to underpin the growth of future strategic industrial lines. 

The drivers of demand include household consumption of goods and services, private investment, government investment and net exports. As to augmenting China’s domestic consumption – a pivotal part of economic growth, the government has pledged to implement a national drive to provide incentives to encourage trade-in of old household appliances, cars and furniture with new models. The replacement of old automobiles, inefficient in fossil fuel use and polluting the air, with Chinese brand-new electric vehicles will also significantly help improve China’s urban environment. And, Chinese local authorities are encouraging citizens to have more family outings and leisure time to increase cultural and tourism spending.

Regarding foreign trade, despite the headwinds of geopolitical tensions which are affecting trade and capital flows, China saw a robust take-off of foreign trade in the first two months this year, largely thanks to the high-quality and low-price of made-in-China goods, like heavy machinery, home appliances, electric cars and a wide variety of electronic devices. In 2024, China’s total exports of goods will likely grow by 6-8 percent over 2023. Investment, domestic spending and export will guarantee the economy to expand by around 5 percent this year.

IMF head Georgieva said she is confident that China and the world can tackle the challenges this globe is now facing and they can always cooperate to create a more prosperous future in this century. 

The author is an editor with the Global Times. [email protected]