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Hong Kong announces fresh relief measures of HK$2b to boost economy

Hong Kong

HONG Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced on Tuesday fresh relief measures of HK$2 billion (S$347.3 million) to support the economy as protests roil the Chinese-ruled city, which is bracing for its first recession in a decade.

The move follows a HK$19.1 billion package in August to support the underprivileged and business enterprises as the government grapples with five months of protests that have battered the retail and tourism sectors.

Hong Kong is on the verge of its first recession in a decade as increasingly violent protests scare off tourists and bite into retail sales in one of the world's most popular shopping destinations.

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The economy shrank 0.4 per cent in April-June from the previous quarter, and conditions have sharply deteriorated since then as demonstrations spread, closing the airport at one stage and paralysing prime shopping areas.

The Asian financial centre, which also has one of the world's busiest ports, was already under intense pressure from the escalating Sino-US trade war and China's biggest economic slowdown in decades.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said in August the economic impact on the city threatened to be worse than the 2003 Sars outbreak or the 2008 financial crash, both of which triggered sharp downturns.

On Monday night, hundreds of Hong Kong riot police confronted demonstrators as they gathered to mark the three-month anniversary of an assault by more than 100 men on protesters, commuters and journalists.

The stand-off in the Yuen Long district, in which there were no immediate clashes or scuffles, followed violence on Sunday when tens of thousands marched through the Kowloon district and hardcore activists threw petrol bombs at police, torched entrances to metro stations and trashed hundreds of shops.

Since the protests escalated in June, more than 2,600 people have been arrested, many under 18 years of age, while two people have been shot and many more injured.

Many people in Hong Kong are angry at what they see as mainland China's attempts to limit the freedoms the city enjoys under the "one country, two systems" principle enshrined in its handover from Britain in 1997.

Protesters are demanding universal suffrage, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, amnesty for those charged, an end to labelling protesters as rioters, and the formal withdrawal of a China extradition Bill which ignited the unrest. REUTERS