Total gold imports via Hong Kong were down about 47.3% to 22.992 tonnes, while net imports stood at 22.24 tonnes in January, compared with 42.16 tonnes in December.

The Hong Kong data may not give a full picture of Chinese purchases because gold is also imported through Shanghai and Beijing.

Physical gold premiums in the world's top consuming nation rose by as much as $30 an ounce over global benchmark prices in January, when prices registered their third consecutive month of gains, Refinitv data showed. [GOL/] [GOL/AS]

China's gold production climbed last year even as consumption of physical gold registered a decline as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, high gold prices and volatility in exchange rates.

(Reporting by Seher Dareen in Bengaluru, Editing by Louise Heavens and Barbara Lewis)