Hong Kong’s economy contracted a record of 6.1 percent in 2020 as the city was battered by the coronavirus pandemic, just months after it was upended by widespread political unrest.

The government on Friday said gross domestic product (GDP) declined three percent in the last quarter of 2020 year-on-year, leading to the record decline over the whole year.

Photo: GovHK.

“As social stability in Hong Kong has been restored, the severe economic contraction last year was mainly due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.

Hong Kong has now ended two successive years in a deep recession.

In 2019 the city was rocked by seven straight months of huge and often violent democracy protests as public anger over China’s rule exploded.

The coronavirus ensured little respite, with Hong Kong becoming one of the first places to record infections after it burst out of central China.

Photo: Jimmy Lam/USP & HKFP.

The heavily populated city has managed to keep infections comparatively low with little more than 10,000 cases and about 180 deaths. 

But in doing so it has imposed economically punishing social distancing measures for much of the last year.

A stubborn fourth wave of infections has hit over the winter, shuttering businesses such as bars and gyms for weeks while restaurants can only serve takeouts in the evening.

A government spokesperson said the city’s economy “recovered further” in the fourth quarter of 2020, “albeit at a slow pace due to the fourth wave of the local epidemic”.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan. File photo: GovHK.

“The Hong Kong economy is expected to see positive growth for 2021 as a whole, but the economic situation in the first half of the year will remain challenging and the degree and speed of recovery is subject to a host of uncertainties, especially those about the pandemic situation,” the spokesperson added.

Private consumption expenditure tumbled by 10.2 percent from 2019. 

Exports and imports of services decreased by 36.8 percent and 35.2 percent respectively. 

Unemployment is currently at 6.6 percent, its highest in 16 years.

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