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Protests take their toll as Hong Kong goes into recession

By Philip Smith

Falling visitor numbers and US-China trade tensions mean growth is unlikely this year

Hong Kong is facing "a technical recession" or two consecutive quarters of economic decline, Hong Kong's financial secretary Paul Chan has said.

It comes after five months of turmoil and protests, which have impacted on tourism and seen retail takings plunge. Violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters, often at popular shopping and tourist areas in Hong Kong, have turned visitors away from the city.

Tourist numbers plunged 37 per cent year-on-year for the third quarter. The number of visitors in the first half of October 2019 was down 50 per cent compared to the previous year.

Chang said Hong Kong is unlikely to see any growth this year and it would be “extremely difficult” to achieve the government’s pre-protest forecast of 0 per cent to 1.0 per cent annual economic growth. “The blow (from the protests) to our economy is comprehensive,” he said.

As well as the unrest, the Hong Kong economy has been hit by the US-China trade war and China's economic slowdown. Exports for the three months ending in September 2019 plummeted more than 7 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.

However, the city's financial markets largely appear to be holding up. The Hang Seng Index is up 4 per cent for the year.

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