The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government on Thursday expressed deep disappointment and serious dismay at the Heritage Foundation's decision to exclude Hong Kong from its 2021 Index of Economic Freedom.
"The decision is neither warranted nor justified. It does not do justice to the HKSAR, which topped the chart as the world's freest economy for 25 years out of the Index's 27-year history," a government spokesman said in a statement.
The HKSAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy over its economic and trade policies as enshrined in the HKSAR Basic Law, he said. "Hong Kong is and will always remain an open, safe, vibrant and pluralistic international financial and business hub, underpinned by economic freedom, the rule of law and judicial independence."
The 2021 Index of Economic Freedom report was released by the foundation on Thursday, analyzing the level of economic freedom of 178 economies. Hong Kong was not included in this report.
The spokesman said the foundation's decision to suddenly exclude Hong Kong from this year's assessment was politically biased and a departure from its long-established practice for the Index.
Hong Kong's strength in the areas of fiscal health, business freedom, trade freedom and financial freedom has not changed and the best example of this is the thousands of international business corporations operating in Hong Kong, the spokesman said.
Under the Basic Law, the HKSAR retains its status as a separate customs territory, and is a member in its own right of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, he said. "Our special status has been widely recognized and respected by the international community."
The spokesman said Hong Kong has retained its capitalist system, free economy and trusted legal system under "one country, two systems" since 1997.
"The free flow of capital is guaranteed," he said. "Hong Kong's monetary autonomy, fiscal autonomy and control over foreign exchange reserves, as well as its freely convertible currency, will continue to be maintained."
The HKSAR government will continue to uphold Hong Kong's institutional strengths, including the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, a simple and low tax system, an efficient government, a free trade and investment regime and a level-playing field for all so as to create a favorable environment for business to thrive and enable the economy to prosper, the spokesman said.
He added that Hong Kong will continue to leverage on the advantages of "one country, two systems" to consolidate its position as an international center for finance, commerce and trade as well as a home for corporate headquarters.