Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po on Sunday warned that unemployment in the city could surge, and he promised the government will aim to support grassroots workers, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, to hedge against a "technical recession."
Chan also urged protesters to end their violence and threats, as society is paying a heavy price. "Violence can't help solve problems," Chan said in a blog post on the department's website, adding that destructive protests only damage businesses' and workers' interests.
Four months of violent protests have dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong's economy. Many people are making long, dangerous trips to arrive at their destinations. Consumption is being depressed at retail outlets and restaurants.
Shops targeted by protesters are being vandalized and their staff are harassed and threatened.
In August, retail sales in Hong Kong fell about 23 percent year-on-year to HK$29.4 billion ($3.75 billion), according to the city's Census and Statistics Department.
Hong Kong is entering a "technical recession," Chan said.
"Experience shows that when an economic contraction continues, the unemployment rate will rise sharply. We need to pay attention to the city's labor market," he said.
Some brands have been forced to reduce the number of their outlets and cut staff.
"At least 100 restaurants have been forced to shut down, affecting about 2,000 workers," he said.
As for a HK$19.1 billion economic support package the city government announced in August, Chan said that rents have been cut for tenants on government land that operates community and business services. Some public-operated organizations have followed suit.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway has adjusted rents for retailers that have been seriously affected. Hong Kong's airport authority may also take steps to ease the pressure on stores at the facility.
"I hope other real estate owners and property developers will take various measures, such as cutting rents and offering rent-free periods, to help retailers get through the challenges brought by a slowing global economy and local social incidents," Chan said.
"Although the challenge is tremendous, decades of development experience have proven that if we properly deal with and learn from every challenge, we can build a more attractive and competitive Hong Kong," Chan said.