In the Hong Kong government’s 2023-2024 budget, the Financial Secretary, the Hon Paul MP Chan, unveiled various measures to bolster Hong Kong’s economy following the Covid-19 epidemic, with a strong focus on promoting green and sustainable finance and technology and advancing the virtual assets sector (also reported here). 

The following initiatives were announced, amongst others:

  • Setting up of a Green Technology and Finance Development Committee which will partner with representatives from green technology, green finance and green standard certification to formulate an action agenda for the promotion of Hong Kong as an international hub.
  • An International Greentech Week at the end of 2023 to gather representatives, enterprises and investors from green technology industries around the world.
  • Further expansion of the existing Government Green Bond Programme, to cover sustainable finance projects (more details to be announced in due course by the HKMA).
  • Establishment of a task force on virtual assets development, to review recommendations by financial regulators and market participants on the sustainable and responsible development of the sector.
  • Setting up of a Digital Economy Development Committee which will undertake research on digital infrastructure, cross-boundary data transfer, digital transformation of enterprises and human resources support.

The Hong Kong government’s resolve to be a leader in green finance and innovation is demonstrated by its inaugural issuance of a HK$800 million tokenised green bond on 16 February 2023, the first in the world issued by a government. In addition, in October 2022 the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited launched Core Climate, an international carbon marketplace (reported here).

The Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong (SFC) has said that it supports the establishment of a virtual assets task force and also welcomes the Government’s measures to develop Hong Kong as an international green technology and financial centre.  In connection with virtual assets, the SFC has, on 20 February 2023, launched a public consultation on the proposed regulatory requirements for operators of virtual asset trading platforms.  This follows the new licensing regime, taking effect on 1 June 2023, that requires all virtual asset trading platforms conducting business in Hong Kong or actively marketing to investors in Hong Kong to be licensed by the SFC (see our legal update).  As part of the consultation, the SFC is seeking views on whether to allow licensed platform operators to serve retail investors, and if so, what measures need to be in place to ensure a robust framework.  Interested parties are invited to submit their comments to the SFC by 31 March 2023.