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 meeting today (February 14):
Reporter: Good morning. Given that the five-day notice rule for US diplomats to meet officials and public educational institute representatives was eased last November, have you or your administration met US Consul General Mr Gregory May yet, and how do you see the easing of this restriction affecting Hong Kong's ties with the US amid Sino-US tensions? Second question, was yesterday's drop of property stocks to the lowest level in six weeks a sign of drop in investor confidence in the city from the inclusion of national security law provisions in recent land sales documents? Why hasn't the Government launched a consultation for these clauses? And what issues is the Government tackling with this measure? And finally, which areas would the Government tackle in its upcoming Budget? Will the Government disburse another round of consumption vouchers and would the Chief Executive please tell us when the mask mandate will be eased? Thank you.

Chief Executive: Any activities by consular staff have to be done in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. In regard to our communication and dealings with different consular staff, we, of course, will be in support of many activities, particularly people-to-people (exchange), business promotion, enhancing mutual understanding, and any things that will bring exchange of people, culture and other communication together. We will, of course, be in support of all these. Hong Kong government officials, of course, will also be in contact with different people, including officials from different consulates, so as to enhance exchanges. We will do our work in accordance with the Vienna Convention. But of course, we will welcome any exchange that will promote people-to-people exchange, cultural ties, and of course, help promoting Hong Kong.
     Regarding fluctuation in the stock market's performance and also in relation to different responses to land sales, of course different factors are taken by, for example, investors or people who may be interested in considering bidding for lands. Obviously, they will be looking at a host of factors. Market sentiment, the international development and the whole economy of the world, and the whole economic situation of Hong Kong, will be taken into consideration by investors and people who may be interested in bidding lands. First of all, the introduction of national security factors in our sale of lands is an obvious thing that is (done) in accordance with our responsibility in protecting national security. I note that representatives from the property sectors have indicated that they are in support of discharging that responsibility. Such a provision has been in place for quite a while and there have been land sales since its introduction. So this factor is an actual factor that I think has no relevance at all to any decision by any businesses who are interested in bidding for sales of land and will basically consider it from their business angle. And I must emphasise that protecting national security is the responsibility of the whole region, the whole Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and everybody should have such a responsibility.
     The third question about the Budget. The Financial Secretary, of course, is consulting people from different sectors on the Budget proposal. So all these factors, views and opinions, will be taken by him, and I'm sure that he will be making his announcement very soon after considering all these views and opinions.
     The fourth question. I have said it many times that after the winter surge, I will be seriously considering what to do about the masking requirement. And I will be listening to opinions of the medical experts and consultants and also the views of the Secretary for Health. Of course, I will be actively considering this possibility after consulting the advice and opinions of the relevant people.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:53