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HK to tackle talent, taxes, education and childbirth

By Oasis Hu in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-26 09:17
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Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu (left) delivers his 2023 Policy Address at the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong on Wednesday. [Photo by Andy Chong/China Daily]

Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region John Lee Ka-chiu on Wednesday unveiled his second policy blueprint, highlighting initiatives to promote patriotic education, encourage childbearing, attract talent and relax property curbs for the first time in a decade.

In a three-hour speech outlining the latest policies, Lee expressed a commitment to uphold the principle of "one country, two systems", strengthen the economy and improve people's livelihoods.

With the city's GDP growing in the first half of the year by 2.2 percent year-on-year, and the unemployment rate dropping to 2.8 percent, reflecting nearly full employment, Lee believed Hong Kong's economy is poised to rebound from last year's downturn and resume growth.

In response to challenges faced by the financial hub, Lee emphasized his commitment to not only strengthen Hong Kong's traditional sectors, including finance, trading, logistics and professional services, but also foster the development of new and emerging strategic areas such as innovation and technology, pharmaceutical research and development, Chinese medicine and new energy transportation.

With national security identified as a key priority, Lee emphasized the government's commitment to fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities. The legislative completion of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which prohibits acts of treason and subversion, will be accomplished by 2024.

Patriotic education was also highlighted, and the government intends to foster a strong sense of national identity and cultivate an appreciation for traditional Chinese culture among Hong Kong residents, according to Lee.

To support these efforts, the government plans to establish a Patriotic Education Working Group and an Office for the Promotion of Chinese Culture. It will also organize the "Chinese Culture Festival" and establish the Hong Kong Anti-Japanese War Museum and Coastal Defense Museum in the coming year, Lee said.

To promote childbirth, Lee announced a one-time cash bonus of HK $20,000 ($2,600) for each baby born to a Hong Kong permanent resident. This policy will take effect immediately and will be applicable for the next three years.

Families with newborns can enjoy priority in purchasing and selecting government-subsidized flats and public housing, and they will get increased household and child allowances.

In addition, the hospital authority will allocate a higher quota for in-vitro fertilization treatment.

In relation to housing, Lee said that the buyers' stamp duty and the new residential stamp duty for non-permanent Hong Kong residents will be reduced from the current 15 percent to 7.5 percent.

Effective immediately, foreign talent entering into sale and purchase agreements will follow the "exempt first and then collect" approach for stamp duty payments, Lee added.

As for attracting talent, the government intends to expand the coverage of universities under the Top Talent Pass Scheme. It will include eight more institutions from the Chinese mainland and overseas, bringing the total number of eligible universities under the scheme to 184, Lee said.

The government will also restart the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme with a higher threshold. Under the new requirement, eligible investors who make investments of HK $30 million or more in various assets such as stocks, funds and bonds (excluding real estate) can apply for entry into Hong Kong, Lee said.

Moreover, the government has introduced a comprehensive array of measures to foster the development of finance, science and technology, culture and arts, propel advancements in transportation infrastructure, safeguard the interests of laborers and disadvantaged groups, and improve governance.

Lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is also chairperson of the New People's Party, said that the initiatives not only include short-term economic stimulus, but also long-term planning of land and housing, as well as healthcare and elderly care.

She added that the local legislation of Article 23 is a constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR, and she believes that Hong Kong will be safer and more stable after the legislation.

Sunny Tan, chairman of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, said that the council will support the government's new measures by providing more advanced technologies and talent training to enterprises, deepening cooperation with the mainland, promoting sustainable development and supporting youth development with more opportunities.

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