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Hong Kong may reopen borders for international travel this year: Paul Chan

Travel World China | Date 2022-03-02


Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po painted a rosy picture of resuming quarantine-free travel with foreign countries within this year.

He said the fifth Covid-19 outbreak could end in about two months according to current studies. The city will then maintain the “dynamic zero infection” policy for resuming quarantine-free travel with the mainland.

"With further increase in the vaccination rate and the purchase of coronavirus drugs from the mainland and other countries, there is hope for Hong Kong to gradually reopen its borders with foreign countries,” he said in a radio program.

Chan is under pressure from landlords and property developers to scrap his proposal to ban evictions or the suing of struggling tenants who cannot pay rent.

The proposal is to introduce legislation that would last for three months and able to be extended for another three months if needed. It would cover unpaid rent in specific sectors affected by the fifth Covid-19 wave.

It was gazetted on Friday and awaits approval from the Executive Council and the Legislative Council. Under the proposed law landlords would be fined from HK$50,000 to three times the sum of rent owed them, according to a government source. Some 130,000 tenants would be covered by the measure.

Chan said he received feedback from different sectors over the past few days and is considering how to improve the arrangement.

He stressed the ban would only be a short-term measure, and will not affect the free market and the mechanism of mortgages. Banks have also introduced support measures such as the Principal Payment Holiday Scheme, he added.

Hong Kong Guest Houses Association founder David Leung Tai-wai said some landlords told the association that they need the rent to repay bank loans as well as to pay for rates, management fees and support their own living.

If the law allowed tenants to default on rent for three months, they may fail to repay bank loans and risk having their properties confiscated. That would result in huge losses or even forced bankruptcy.

Leung suggested the government invoke the power under the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to allow property owners to suspend their repayments to banks for three months. The banks should be required to extend their total repayment period by three months, so that the outstanding amount can be repaid later.

He also said the government should consider including terms to prohibit banks from pursing landlords for outstanding loans during the rent moratorium period into the temporary law