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Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA)

New HK$1,000 banknotes set to debut in Hong Kong on Wednesday

  • Ninety million of the bills will be available to the public, with new HK$500 notes to follow on January 23, ahead of Lunar New Year
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 3:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 11:21pm

Tens of millions of the new HK$1,000 banknotes with designs showcasing the city as a financial centre are set to debut in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced the details on Tuesday, revealing that 90 million of the new bills would be available to the public.

The new HK$500 bills – 230 million of them – will be available on January 23, the authority said, about two weeks ahead of the Lunar New Year. Many families like to put brand new banknotes into red packets for the occasion.

Three other denominations – HK$100, HK$50 and HK$20 – will enter circulation between mid-2019 and early 2020, but the issuance dates have not yet been fixed.

HKMA executive director Colin Pou Hak-wan said it prioritised notes with greater face value because they come with a greater risk of being copied.

“Our consideration was certainly based on the face values of the bills,” Pou said. “If there was one fake note, then the loss to citizens would be bigger.”

Pou added it was an international practice to print new money with bigger denominations first.

He said the new HK$100 bills could be ready around next year’s summer holidays.

Lydia Chan Yip Siu-ming, the authority’s head of currency and settlement, said the old banknotes would be removed from circulation naturally.

She expected the old 2010 version banknotes would be replaced gradually after at least three years.

Members of the public will be able to obtain the new bills at branches of HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong), and Bank of China (Hong Kong).

In July, the authority unveiled the design of the new banknotes featuring advanced security features to prevent counterfeiting. The elements include an enhanced watermark and concealed denomination – a numeral visible only when the bill is tilted at an angle.

New Hong Kong banknotes to thwart counterfeiters … and promote Cantonese culture

The bills feature new design themes: yum cha (HK$20); butterflies (HK$50); Cantonese opera (HK$100); the city’s Unesco Global Geopark (HK$500); and Hong Kong as an international financial centre (HK$1,000).

The Cantonese words “yum cha” can be literally translated as “drinking tea”, but the phrase refers to having dim sum – bite-sized dishes ranging from steamed buns to dumplings and rolls – and tea in Chinese restaurants.

With a transparent protective layer on the new notes, Pou believes their lifespan, which is usually about three to five years, could be extended by one or two years.

Each of the three banks has its own designs based on the stipulated themes.

Peter Wong Tung-shun, deputy chairman and chief executive of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, said the new HSBC HK$1,000 notes would be available for exchange from Wednesday.

“This note also has a powerful new representation of ‘Stitt’, one of the lions that has guarded our headquarters building since 1935, becoming a symbol of trust and prosperity,” Wong said.

Bank of China said its notes feature a bauhinia flower, the floral emblem of Hong Kong, and its bank tower, while Standard Chartered said its design paid tribute to the Hong Kong spirit, showing the landmark symbol Lion Rock.

The notes will also have a heavier, more embossed texture than those presently in circulation.

Last year, police seized 1,888 fake banknotes, down from 2,620 in 2016. But in the first ten months of this year they confiscated 2,547 notes, up from 1,647, or an increase of almost 55 per cent, in the same period last year.