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Transcript of remarks by CE at media session before ExCo (with video)
     Following is the transcript of remarks by the Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, at a media session before the Executive Council (ExCo) meeting today (November 8):
Reporter: Chief Executive, so the Government is allowing tour groups to visit theme parks and museums. But does it mean that there won't be "0+0" in the near future? The Government seems to be more lenient to Rugby Sevens' spectators than ordinary citizens. Outside the Hong Kong Stadium, is there also room for us to remove our masks in more occasions, or would the Government consider abolishing the "Amber" Health Code altogether? My second question is on press freedom. So, journalist Choy Yuk-ling lost her appeal on car plate checks yesterday. Does the Government have any legislative plans to review the official information checking procedures to support press freedom and investigative journalism in Hong Kong?
Chief Executive: First of all, I have explained, time and again, that in our prevention of the COVID attack, we will be regularly reviewing the data and see how we will roll out our measures. My policy has been clear: while we can balance the risks against economic and social needs, we will try to have special plans to allow activities to proceed with what we consider acceptable restrictions. And it is under this principle that the Rugby Sevens was conducted. It was a very successful event, and I think the international world has seen that Hong Kong has come back to the centre stage for international activities.
     The principle that I have mentioned, I want to repeat again, is for activities, particularly large-scale ones with economic elements, and also international events, we will, while controlling the risks, allow them to happen with specific plans. It is under this principle. We will, of course, review what we have done in the different activities that we have made special arrangements to allow it to happen, look at the data, and see how we will be taking measures in the future. What is important is under "0+3", already a lot of activities have been taking place. At the present moment, I think "0+3" has served the purpose of Hong Kong to the acceptable and anticipated extent, allowing a lot of activities to happen. And I've also indicated that the statistics indicating arrivals and departures at the airport is positive. There are more and more people coming to Hong Kong from overseas besides Hong Kong residents going out for tourist visit. So the activities are all coming back and it will take time because, for example, the airlines' capacity has to be built up. So we are doing all these with the very clear principle – to do it in a progressive, orderly way under control, so that there will not be chaos and there will not be unexpected happenings and we can progress in the same direction smoothly.
     At the same time, the activities that are allowed in Hong Kong are given more freedom and more relaxation. As you can see, many social distancing measures have been relaxed, including restaurants now being allowed to run without any control on opening hours and also performances are allowed to take place. Slowly and slowly, as we can control the risks, there will be further measures that we will consider to allow more activities to take place without restriction. That principle has been made very clear. The tour groups special plan is also an example that we will be making special arrangements while we can control the risk. As we go through more and more of such activities, we can, of course, review the experience and then look at the data so that we can have more measures designed so as to allow activities to proceed with the maximum of freedom.
     And you also asked about masks. Masks will stay on because I think all experts have indicated masks are important in controlling the spread of the disease. After all, we have to be conscious of some of the uncertainties of COVID. First of all, we know every now and then there will be variants. And we also know that with winter coming, the attack of the flu will add to the risk of COVID. And from our experience, from the fourth wave to the fifth wave, we know that the safety factor that we put in in the first four waves cannot cope with the speedy spread of Omicron in the fifth wave. So this safety factor is something that I must consider and I really wish the public to know that while we look at the data, we also have to look at what safety factor we have to build in, in the overall strategy to protect against COVID's attack. And that is why I must do it in an orderly, progressive manner, so that we will be able to control the risk.
     The second question is about press freedom. Press freedom is, as I have mentioned many times, in the pocket of the people of Hong Kong. It is enshrined and protected in the Basic Law. What is important is, no matter what profession you are in, you must go about your duties in accordance with the law. You cannot go beyond the law and nobody is above the law. Provided it is within the confines of the law, press freedom is fully protected in Hong Kong, in the same way as how you're doing your business every day.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Issued at HKT 13:29
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