The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Thursday welcomed the Fraser Institute’s recognition of the territory as the world’s freest economy.
In its Economic Freedom of the World 2022 Annual Report, the institute said that Hong Kong continued to rank top in “Freedom to Trade Internationally” and “Regulation” among the five areas of assessment, according to a government statement issued on Thursday night.
“We have been striving to improve the business environment and enhance market efficiency and support, thereby allowing the economy to display flexibility and resilience and leverage the advantages of the free market,” an HKSAR government spokesman was quoted as saying in the statement.
“Our commitment to maintaining an efficient, free, open and fair business environment is once again affirmed.”
Hong Kong has gained the top rank since the inception in 1996 of the report, which measures economic freedom — the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions — by analysing the policies and institutions of 165 countries and regions.
Indicators include regulation, freedom to trade internationally, size of government, sound legal system and property rights, and government spending and taxation.
On the institute’s unfair comments about Hong Kong’s rule of law, the implementation of the National Security Law and the so-called interference by the Chinese mainland, the spokesman said that since the return to the motherland, the HKSAR has been implementing the ‘one country, two systems’ principle “in strict accordance with the Basic Law, and various rights and freedoms are fully protected.”
“The success of ‘one country, two systems’ has won recognition throughout the world. In his important speech on July 1, President Xi Jinping stressed that ‘one country, two systems’ must be adhered to in the long run, and Hong Kong’s distinctive status and advantages must be maintained,” the spokesman said.
“This serves the fundamental interests of the country, meets the interests of the residents of Hong Kong, and is conducive to maintaining Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
He said the fundamental purpose of ‘one country, two systems’ is to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests and to maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao SARs.
“The black-clad violence that emerged in the second half of 2019 flagrantly challenged the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, and seriously damaged Hong Kong’s economy and harmed our business and investment environment,” the spokesman said.
With the implementation of the National Security Law, stability and security have been swiftly and effectively restored in the society of Hong Kong, and the prestigious business environment has returned, the spokesman said.
He noted that after more than two years of implementation of the National Security Law, the value of Hong Kong’s asset and wealth management business reached HK$35.5 trillion (US$4.52 trillion) at the end of 2021, with an increase of more than 20 per cent when compared to that at the end of 2019.
After more than two years of implementation of the National Security Law, the value of Hong Kong’s asset and wealth management business reached HK$35.5 trillion at the end of 2021, with an increase of more than 20 per cent when compared to that at the end of 2019
The amount of deposits in the banking system stood at more than HK$15 trillion in July 2022, 8.5 per cent higher than that prior to the implementation of the National Security Law in June 2020, the spokesman said.
He added that in the latest Global Financial Centres Index published in March this year, the status of Hong Kong as a leading global financial centre has been reaffirmed, ranking first in Asia and third in the world.
“In his address on July 1, President Xi recognised the unique strength of Hong Kong’s common law system, and indicated that the autonomy bestowed by the law is fully respected and resolutely safeguarded by the central government,” the spokesman said.
“The HKSAR government remains fully committed to upholding Hong Kong’s fine tradition of the rule of law and judicial independence,” he added.
The spokesman said Hong Kong’s distinctive status and advantages are clear: the rule of law and judicial independence, free flow of capital, a free trade and investment regime, a simple and low tax system, a favorable business environment and an efficient and clean government.
“Looking forward, Hong Kong, under ‘one country, two systems’, will leverage on the motherland’s strong support and connection with the world market, and continue to play our unique roles as a gateway, a springboard and an intermediary,” he said.
“We will create strong impetus for growth, and actively integrate into the overall development of our country, dovetail with national strategies such as the National 14th Five-Year Plan, the Greater Bay Area development and high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, and seize the opportunities ahead,” he added.
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