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2010's

2010
January 1—About 1,000 people—a relatively low turnout—held a New Year's demonstration at the central government's liaison office to demand that Beijing soon grant full autonomy to Hong Kong.

January 8—Several thousand protesters gathered outside the Legislative Council building to oppose funding for the planned HK$66.9 billion (US$8.63 billion) express rail link to Shenzhen and Guangzhou on grounds it doesn't serve Hong Kong's interests and is too costly.

January 16—The legislature approved construction of the rail link, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. Officials claimed that tactics of several thousand young protesters had "seriously undermined" the rule of law.

The Disneyland theme park, 52% owned by the government, admitted operating losses for the first time: HK$1.32 billion (US$170 million) in 2009 and HK$1.57 billion (US$203 million) in 2008.

January 23—The government said developers completed only 7,200 new homes in 2009, the lowest figure for 38 years, while the average home price rose 30%.

January 26—Five pan-democratic Legco members resigned to force by-elections in each of Hong Kong's geographical constituencies. They will seek re-election in campaigns they said should be considered a public referendum on whether voters want faster movement toward universal suffrage. Both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments have denounced the tactic. Several government allies said they will boycott the elections in an effort to limit their significance.                 

February 22—The government said by-elections in the five geographical constituencies will be held May 18.

February 24—Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced the government's fiscal 2010-2011 budget estimates and revised estimates for 2009-2010. He said operating expenditure for the current year will be HK$236 billion (US$30.45 billion), slightly less than expected and leaving a surplus of HK$19 billion (US$2.45 billion). For the coming year, he forecast revenues of HK$292 billion (US$37.67 billion) and an operating deficit of HK$3.8 billion (US$49 million). Specific policy changes included a one-time income tax reduction of 75% for most wage earners; reductions in property tax; increased social welfare payments; and higher payments to students who receive government aid. Several other measures, including a higher stamp tax on expensive homes, were designed to restrain the property market. Government critics said the budget failed to provide adequate relief for low income residents.

March 1—The Tourism Board predicted that 31 million people will visit Hong Kong during 2010, up 5% from last year.

March 2—The 27-story Murray Building, home to official offices since construction 40 years ago, will be converted into a luxury hotel after the new government headquarters at Tamar opens in 2011.

March 13—The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report said Hong Kong gives "disproportionate political influence" to certain sectors of the community and limits the public's right to change the government.

March 14—The Chinese central government said it could not give firm promises that universal suffrage will be introduced for elections in 2017 and 2020. It said this could not be done before the Hong Kong government and political parties agree on revised election rules for 2012.

March 18—The unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, the lowest since late 2008.

March 22—Nominations opened for the five Legco by-elections scheduled for May 16. They will close April 8.

March 24—Graham Sheffield, artistic director of London's Barbican Centre, was named chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, the HK$21 billion (US$2.7 billion) arts center planned for a new development area.

March 29—The government announced plans to introduce stricter laws requiring listed companies to disclose price-sensitive information more freely in an effort to curtail insider trading on the stock market. Violators could be fined up to US$1 million.

March 30—Hong Kong reached a comprehensive free trade agreement with New Zealand, the first with an economy outside China.

March 31—The government announced creation of the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Cooperation and Promotion Council to encourage improved and more substantive relations between the two regions.

 April 7—The Hong Kong and Guangdong governments signed a new agreement on cross-border economic cooperation.  It is designed to increase joint efforts in such fields as finance, the environment and infrastructure projects. The agreement is also intended to integrate the Hong Kong economy into the mainland's five year development plan more closely.

April 8—Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, chief judge of the High Court, has been named chief justice, succeeding Andrew Li Kwok-nang, who has resigned effective in August.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Hong Kong to meet local officials, including those who advise the central government on monetary affairs. The U.S. is trying to persuade China to let the yuan's exchange rate strengthen.

April 14—The government announced its political reform plans for the 2012 elections of chief executive and Legislative Council. The main changes, which were expected, would increase the election committee that selects the chief executive to 1200 members from 800, and would expand Legco to70 members from 60—with half, as at present, to be chosen by direct election and half by special interest groups called functional constituencies. The five new functional constituency seats would be filled by elected members of District Councils, local government bodies. Voting for these five, via a proportional representation system, would be limited to the 405 elected members of these councils, and not by members of business, finance or other special interest groups. (The 102 appointed council members would not be eligible to vote.) The government package needs a two-thirds vote of the present Legco to become law. Most pro-democracy groups called the plan inadequate and said they would vote against it.

April 21—The government announced measures to curb property speculation. They include increased stamp duty on homes selling for more than HK$20 million (US$258,000) and increased sales of land for residential development.

April 22—Consumer prices rose at a 2% annual rate in March, or 0.8% on a year-on-year basis.

April 27—Exports for March rose 32.1% , the fifth consecutive month of year-on-year growth.

May 12—A government study said 850,000 residents have incomes below the official poverty line, an increase of 19% during the first nine months of 2009. This is equal to about 11% of Hong Kong's population.

May 15—The economy grew by an annual 8.2% rate during the year's first quarter, and by 2.4% during the year ended March 31. Government economists said the overall 2010 increase might exceed the official forecast of 5%. 

May 16—By-elections in the five geographical Legco districts saw all five incumbents returned to office in a low turn-out. Two pro-democracy parties had called the vote in hopes of turning it into a de facto referendum on the need for universal suffrage and against the government's plan for limited electoral reforms, but pro-government parties declined to contest the elections. Analysts differed on whether the 579,000 turnout—17.1% of eligible voters—constituted victory or defeat for the democratic side.

May 20—A group of compromise-minded democratic politicians met with senior officials of the central government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong to discuss possible liberalization of the government's electoral reform package. They hoped Beijing would accept changes that would produce the two-thirds approval vote in Legco needed to make it law. This marked the first time such talks were held, but no definitive agreements were reached.

June 2—Police released two Goddess of Liberty statues they had seized earlier, and said activists could display them in Victoria Park, site of the annual memorial demonstration marking the 1989 Tien An Men killings. The vice chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a member of a mainland political body, said its students should be "neutral" and initially banned placement of a similar statue there; he later relented. By contrast, the University of Hong Kong vice chancellor said his students have the right to express diverse political views. However, authorities refused to allow the designer of the original 1989 statue into Hong Kong for unstated reasons; now a New Zealand citizen, he was stopped at the airport and returned to the U.S., where he lives.

 

June 4—A surprisingly large and peaceful crowd rallied in Victoria Park to commemorate the 1989 Tien An Men incident. Police said they totaled 113,000 people—the highest total ever it has ever estimated—while organizers said 150,000 were present.  

The Hong Kong and Chinese governments agreed to expanded cooperation under their Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Officials said the most important changes affect medical services, including the right of Hong Kong entities to establish hospitals on the mainland; tourism; banking; securities; construction; air transport; distribution; product testing and related services; audiovisual services and specialty design.

June 17—The unemployment rate rose to 4.6%, up from the previous 4.4% and the first increase since mid-2009.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee held a one-hour televised debate on the merits of the government's pending political reform bill. Most analysts called Eu the most effective speaker but said the debate probably didn't change any Legco votes.

June 20—A large crowd rallied in Victoria Park in support of the government's election reform plan. Police put the total at 70,000 while organizers said it was 120,000.

June 21—The government said it will revise election reform plans by increasing the "democratic element", following talks between pro-democracy politicians and central government officials. The main change affects the planned five new functional constituency seats to be filled by elected members of District Councils. Rather than have the five chosen by the 405 elected members of these local government bodies, as originally planned, they will be chosen by all eligible Hong Kong voters, excluding the 200,000 or so who already vote in other functional constituency elections. This means every eligible resident can vote twice—once in a geographic district for directly-elected Legco members and once in a functional constituency, with most relegated to selecting the five District Council members who will join Legco if the measure passes. The result would be a 70-member Legco with 40 members chosen by the general public. Analysts said the change should allow the total package to win legislative approval.

June 24—Legco passed by a 46-13 vote a government proposal to expand the election committee that will choose the next chief executive in 2012 to 1200 members from the present 800.

June 25—Legco approved by a 46-12 margin a second government resolution to revise rules for the 2012 elections. Under its terms, Legco will be expanded to 70 members from the present 60, with five of the new seats filled by popular voting in Hong Kong's five geographical districts, and the other five candidates—who must be elected members of District Councils—chosen by the 93% of the public that does not already have a second vote in a functional constituency. This means that 40 of the 70 seats will be chosen by popular ballot, and reflects a concession by the Beijing and Hong Kong governments which originally favored a more restrictive method of adding those five seats to the legislature.

July 1—The annual demonstration on behalf of local democracy and other social issues drew 52,000 marchers according to the organizers, 20,000 according to police and 22,400 according to a University of Hong Kong poll. All agreed the total was down sharply from last year, probably due to uncertainty about the pace of democratization and an unusually hot day.

July 1—The annual rally on behalf of universal suffrage drew 52,000 marchers, down from 76,000 last year, according to its organizers. A University of Hong Kong survey estimated the turnout at 22,400 while police said it was 20,000. Fierce heat and the recent agreement on electoral reforms for 2012 helped reduce the numbers. Some Democratic Party members who supported the reforms were heckled by its opponents.

July 13—Legco passed Hong Kong’s first minimum wage law after a 41-hour debate. The wage rate will be set later—rival groups argue for pay ranging from HK$24 to HK$33 per hour—and will take effect in early 2011, subject to revision every two years.

July 23—A United Nations survey said Hong Kong was the world’s fourth largest recipient of foreign direct investment in 2009, with a total of US$48.4 billion though this was down 19% from the previous year when it ranked ninth. Hong Kong trailed the U.S., mainland China and France. Worldwide, FDI was US$1.1 trillion, down 37% from 2008.

July 30—Hong Kong’s population will reach 8.9 million in 30 years, up from the present seven million, the government said, and will become increasingly old and female. The proportion of those over age 65 will rise to 28%, up from the current 13%, while the number of men per 1,000 women will drop from 889 to only 744.

August 6—Hong Kong regulators approved the city’s first yuan-denominated investment fund, the latest move toward making the Chinese currency a major global currency.

August 21—Three rival architectural plans for the pending HK$21.6  billion (US$2.8 billion) West Kowloon arts center were released. A three-month public consultation period will follow, with a final design to be selected in 2011. 

August 29—Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah began an official four-day visit to Taiwan, further elevating improved relations between the two entities.

September 11—The iconic Star Ferry said it will discontinue two of its four cross-harbor routes due to financial losses.

September 29—The Executive Council (Exco, or cabinet) approved a voluntary health insurance plan designed to encourage more patients to use private health care facilities rather than public hospitals. The subsidized insurance plan, if it becomes law, would be financed by an initial government fund of HK$50 billion (US$6.5 billion) and could take effect by 2013. The main goal is to reduce pressure on an over-taxed public medical system.

October 4—A record number of Hong Kong residents live in poverty, the  Hong Kong Council of Social Service said, with 1.26 million or 18.1% of the population earning less than HK$3,500 (US$450) per month.

 October 9—Beijing named deputy foreign minister Wang Guangya, a former ambassador to the United Nations, to head the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, which manages the central government’s relations with the two special administrative zones. He is the son of former foreign minister Chen Yi, a founder of the People’s Republic of China, and replaces Liao Hui, who held the post for 13 years.

October 13—In his annual policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said a new government subsidy would help eligible homebuyers enter the residential market by refunding half their rent for up to five previous years for use when buying residences. He also announced new environmental controls and said he would not introduce new security legislation during his term.

October 15—The government announced a new HK$10 billion (US$1.3 billion) Community Care Fund to alleviate poverty, with half the funds to be donated by real estate developers and other private sources. It was immediately criticized as too small to make a significant difference, vague in its plans and serving mainly as a public relations gesture for speculators who have made huge profits in the current property boom.

October 30—The government said work on the last of five major railway projects—the 17-kilometer Shatin to Central line—would begin in 2012, two years behind schedule. It also said the cost will be HK$60 billion (US$7.7 billion), 60% higher than the original estimate in 2007.

November 10—The government set the new minimum wage rate at HK$28 (US$2.88) per hour. It will bring pay raises to 314,000 workers and take effect May 1, 2011.

November 12—The Hong Kong economy grew at a 7.1% annual rate during the first three quarters of 2010, the government said. The official forecast for the full year was revised upward to 6.5%. 

November 16—The unemployment rate for the third quarter remained unchanged at 4.2%.

November 18—The IMF said Hong Kong’s economic growth rate for 2010 would be 6.75%, dropping to 5% to 5.5% in 2011. It also said the Hong Kong dollar should remain linked to the U.S. dollar.

November 19—The government announced new measures to restrain housing prices and curb property speculation. Stamp duties of 15% will be assessed against any property sold within six months of purchase, 10% if sold within six to 12 months and 5% if sold within 12 to 24 months. It also increased mandatory down payments sharply, up to 50% for property costing more than HK$12 million (US$1.55 million).

November 23—The Hong Kong stock exchange will increase its trading day in March to five hours from four by opening 30 minutes earlier and cutting its traditional two-hour lunch break. In March 2012, the lunch recess will be cut another 30 minutes. International investors have long complained about both the limited trading day, shorter than at any other leading exchange, and the leisurely lunchtime recess.   

December 3—An IMF report advised China and Hong Kong to take further steps to restrain property prices and curb speculation.

December 14—The government said it will try to hold the 2023 Asian Games in Hong Kong. If successful, the cost could exceed HK$36 billion (US$4.6 billion).

December 16—Legco member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee announced formation of a new political party called the New People’s Party, which she will chair. The former Secretary for Security said Michael Tien Puk-sun, once a leading member of the pro-business Liberal Party, will serve as vice chairman.

December 21—The government forecast a low inflation rate of 1.7% for 2010, but warned it will rise in the months ahead.

January 7—Graham Sheffield, former artistic director of the Barbicon Centre in London, quit as chief executive of the planned West Kowloon arts center after only five months on the job. He said his surprise resignation was for health reasons.

The Tourism Board said a record 21.6 million people visited Hong Kong in 2010, a 21.8% rise from the prior year.

January 9—Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, former Secretary for Security, announced that she will head a new political party called the New People’s Party. While widely considered a pro-establishment group, it also favors faster movement toward a more democratic voting system.

January 11—The United States and Hong Kong governments signed a product safety agreement intended, in particular, to curb exports of unsafe Chinese-made toys to the U.S.

January 14—The Legislative Council voted 40-14 against a government plan to seek the 2023 Asian Games for Hong Kong, killing the project. Opponents said hosting the games would cost too much and bring few benefits.

In a policy reversal, the government said adult mainland children of Hong Kong parents will be allowed to apply for residence beginning in April. It said this could apply to “tens of thousands” who previously had been denied the right of abode.

February 23—Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-Wah said government spending in the 2011-12 fiscal year would total US$47.6 billion, compared to revenues of US$48 billion. For 2010-11, the new budget estimated spending would total US$38.9 billion, US$1.7 billion less than expected, with revenues of US$48 billion, US$10.6 billion more than expected. He said part of the unplanned surplus would be spent to inject HK$6,000 (US$770) into the workers’ Mandatory Provident Fund of every Hong Kong citizen, and announced other temporary measures to help the city’s poorer residents. The budget put 2010 economic growth at 6.8% and forecast 2011’s rate at between 4% and 5%, with inflation for 2011 rising to 4.5%. The budget was widely criticized for its lack of systematic programs to alleviate poverty, such as by more generous public health, pension or housing plans.

March 2—Public protests caused the financial secretary to cancel plans to inject HK$6,000 into the retirement fund of each Hong Kong worker. In an unprecedented budget revision, John Tsang said the government instead would pay that amount in cash to each adult Hong Kong citizen, including those living overseas—about six million people in all. He also announced a one-time income tax cut aimed at low-income workers.

March 4—The firm of British architect Norman Foster won the competition to design the HK$21.6 billion (US$2.8 billion) West Kowloon cultural center, the government announced.

March 12—China’s new five-year economic plan designated Hong Kong as the country’s center for offshore trading of its currency, the renminbi. It also named Hong Kong to head a regional financial system serving other Pearl River Delta cities, which will play “a supporting role”. The plan also promises that Beijing will support Hong Kong’s continued development as an international financial, trade and shipping center.
 
March 14—Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the five year plan’s guidelines would not be a substitute for Hong Kong’s own economic policies.

March 17—Unemployment dropped to 3.6% for the quarter ending with February, the lowest rate in three years.
 
March 25—Foreign direct investment into Hong Kong totaled HK$535.3 billion (US$68.6 billion) in 2010, up 32% from the previous year, according to United Nations estimates. Mainland China, the US and the UK were the main sources of these funds, many of them routed to other locations through Hong Kong-based companies. Worldwide, the UN said FDI increased only 1% last year. 

After a nine-month delay, the government issued regulations enforcing United Nations sanctions against Iran that came into effect in June, 2011. This follows the U.S. blacklisting of 20 Hong Kong companies created by the Iranian government to serve as owners of Iranian cargo ships that allegedly carry goods intended for Iranian nuclear and military programs.


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