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Hong Kong protests and retail: what’s new?

New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip 1

Rush hour train services were disrupted and delayed in Hong Kong on 24 July, 2019 morning after anti-government protesters launched another campaign against rail operator MTR Corporation by preventing a Chai Wan-bound train from leaving Admiralty station.

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The service finally left 18 minutes late after doors opened and closed repeatedly, causing many passengers to delay their appointments.

The protesters’ act of disruption is not only affecting the public’s daily lives, but also the economy of Hong Kong.

We have recently published an article about the impact of protests on the retail industry, and the situation is becoming more and more complex as as protests are still going on.

While retailers are trying to negotiate with landlords who do not want to lower rents, proposals from all angles come up to save Hong Kong economy.

Hong Kong’s financial chief should announce an HK$8,000 (US$1,024) cash handout for all residents to boost local consumption and retail after the recent mass protests, a prominent pro-establishment lawmaker has said.

New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who also serves as an adviser in Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s cabinet, dismissed the suggestion the proposal was meant to help her party win more votes in the coming elections, saying it was only for the people’s good.

Ip said she met Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and told him that a cash handout should be given to all residents aged 18 or above, given the city’s current economic and social conditions.

Chan is meeting people from various sectors to discuss the government’s next budget, to be rolled out in February next year.

“We believe the government should directly hand out cash to every permanent resident … I think most people hope peace can be restored in Hong Kong, and society can be prosperous,” he said.

In March last year, Chan had also announced a handout of up to HK$4,000 (US$510). But only those who did not own a property or benefit from government allowances were eligible to apply for it.

Many lawmakers, including Ip, criticised the scheme as too complicated and time-consuming as the eligible applicants were expected to receive the payment only later this year.

Critics said the government should hand out cash to all residents aged 18 or above next time.

The pro-establishment camp has been worrying about losing seats in the district council polls in November, and in the Legislative Council elections next year, because they have supported the government’s now-suspended extradition bill.

The legislation would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong does not have such arrangements.

Asked whether her proposal would boost her party’s prospect in the polls, Ip said: “Do not just think that we are always eyeing elections. We are only proposing these because of the economic downturn and people’s concerns.”

Ip also proposed the government should waive 25 per cent rent under short-term tenancies for six months as many local logistics firms were operating on land rented from the government based on such tenancies, and they would be badly affected by the US-China trade war.

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Chan should also help the logistics sector by waiving the annual examination fees for commercial vehicles, such as taxi and minibuses, for one year, she added.