Overseas Business Risk – Hong Kong – GOV.UK

Updated 16 April 2018

Contents

  1. 1.Government
  2. 2.Human Rights
  3. 3.International Relations
  4. 4.Economic Overview
  5. 5.Bribery and Corruption
  6. 6.Terrorism Threat and Protective Security
  7. 7.Intellectual Property
  8. 8.Organised Crime

1. Government

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (SAR) covers an area of 1,098 square kilometres (424 square miles) on the southern coast of China. It comprises Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, and about 235 outlying islands.

Hong Kong falls under the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China, which is responsible for its foreign affairs and defence. However, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy in the other areas of its governance, including economic and trade affairs. The Sino-British Joint Declaration outlines the “One Country, Two Systems” model for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The Basic Law, which encompasses the key features of the Joint Declaration, such as Hong Kong’s special status, autonomy, the continuation of its capitalist system, common law legal system, rights and freedoms is effectively Hong Kong’s constitution. It prescribes, among other things, the relationship between the Chinese Government and the Hong Kong SAR Government, the fundamental rights and duties of the Hong Kong people and the SAR’s political structure.

The current Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Government is Ms Carrie Lam, who was elected by a 1,194 member Election Committee on 26 March 2017, and will serve a five year term. The Legislative Council (LegCo) is Hong Kong’s parliament. Forty of its seventy seats are directly elected. The remaining thirty seats are filled by representatives of “functional constituencies”, selected mainly by the business sector and the professions. Members of LegCo serve for a term of four years, and the most recent LegCo elections, to select the 6th Legislative Council of Hong Kong, took place on 4 September 2016. By-elections were held for some seats in March 2018 as a result of HKSAR Government legal action against some elected legislators leading to their disqualification.

Hong Kong’s political discourse is dominated by questions surrounding the constitutional relationship between the SAR and mainland China, with pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps highly polarised. It is likely that pro-democracy legislators’ sustained filibuster campaign will continue, though it remains to be seen whether recent changes to LegCo’s rules of procedure will affect their ability to hold up Government legislation.

2. Human Rights

Basic rights and freedoms are generally well respected in Hong Kong, though there are some concerns that the increased influence of the CPG in Hong Kong has led to increased pressure on many of them in recent years.

Civilian authorities maintain effective control over the Hong Kong Police Force, and there are mechanisms to investigate and punish any cases of abuse and/or corruption. The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respects judicial independence in practice.

The law, including related regulations and statutory instruments, protects the right of workers to form and join independent unions without previous authorisation or excessive requirements, and conduct legal strikes. However, the law does not provide for the right to collective bargaining. Trade unions must register with the government’s Registry of Trade Unions and must have a minimum membership of seven persons for registration. Unions can affiliate, and workers are not prevented from unionising.

The law provides for freedom of assembly and association. The government routinely issues the required “Letter of No Objection” for public meetings and demonstrations, and the overwhelming majority of protests occur without serious incident. Isolated instances of sporadic violence have occurred during both pro-democracy and anti-immigration protests in recent years.

There are no government restrictions on access to the Internet.

3. International Relations

The UK enjoys a positive, forward looking relationship with The Hong Kong SAR Government, and mutually beneficial cooperation in a wide range of areas.

A lot of our historic ties and affinities still endure. There are around 3.5 million British passport-holders in Hong Kong. The majority are British Nationals (Overseas) – BN(O)s. This form of British nationality accords visa-free access to the UK for visits, but not the right of abode in the UK. BN(O)s enjoy the same level of consular service in third countries as other British Nationals.

The Foreign Secretary reports to Parliament every six months on developments in Hong Kong, and gives our assessment of how well the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong is working in practice.

Hong Kong continues to be a major business partner for the UK. It is important as a very significant market in its own right and also as the principal gateway into, and increasingly, out of mainland China, particularly the Pearl River Delta (PRD). It is:

  • the UK’s second largest market for goods in Asia-Pacific (after mainland China), and 12th largest worldwide in 2016
  • the origin of 2.3% of all FDI into the UK in 2015
  • the source of over 25% of the profits of two of the UK’s largest banks in 2016 (HSBC and Standard Chartered)
  • the test-bed for the internationalisation of China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB)

Cooperation through the London-Hong Kong Financial Services Forum has helped establish London’s status as an offshore hub for RMB trading.

The economies of Hong Kong and mainland China are increasingly integrated. The Hong Kong/Mainland China Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed in 2003. Under CEPA, Hong Kong companies (including UK companies with substantive business operations in Hong Kong for 3-5 years) get preferential access into the mainland market. On trade in goods, the arrangement allows tariff free imports of all goods of Hong Kong origin into China. A new agreement on trade in services was signed in November 2015, allowing Hong Kong service providers unrivalled access to the Chinese market. CEPA was further enhanced for cross-boundary investments in June 2017. We expect the development of the Greater Bay Area initiative (Guangdong cities, Hong Kong and Macao) to provide ever-deepening economic integration as the region becomes a leading free trade area.

The Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect pilot scheme was launched on 17 November 2014 and allows international investors to invest in mainland China’s A-share market and Chinese investors to invest in Hong Kong. In August 2016, the aggregate quota of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect was lifted to deepen financial linkages with the mainland. After repeated delays due to market volatility, the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect was launched in December 2016. The operation of this scheme mirrors its Shanghai-Hong Kong counterpart – with its tech stocks offering investors a higher yield alternative to Shanghai’s blue chip stocks with typical annual returns potentially as high as 25%.

In addition to the Stock Connect, a ‘China-Hong Kong Bond Connect’ was launched northbound on 3 July 2017, allowing international investors to gain access to the mainland bond market via Hong Kong accounts.

As a customs territory, HKSAR is responsible for its own bilateral and multilateral economic and trade relations. Hong Kong is a strong advocate for free trade and open markets in fora such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In other multilateral fora, such as the G20, Hong Kong participates as part of the Chinese delegation.

4. Economic Overview

Hong Kong is a small, open economy and an international financial centre that acts as a conduit into and out of China for both goods and capital. The ‘pillar industries’ of finance, logistics and trade, tourism, and professional services combined provide 57% of Hong Kong’s GDP; services overall account for 92%. Gross trade flows amount to 375% of GDP, and annual tourist arrivals of over 58 million (including 44 million mainland Chinese) are equivalent to around eight times Hong Kong’s population of 7 million.

This outward focus means that Hong Kong’s economy is strongly influenced by conditions in the global economy, particularly – and increasingly – in mainland China, which now receives 54% of Hong Kong’s total exports. The United States at 9% is also a key export market.

Hong Kong’s 5-year real trend growth was adjusted slightly up to 3.5%, helped along by a brightening world economy and strengthening domestic demand. Growth was 3.6% in 2017. The government anticipates growth of around 3.2% in 2018.

The key driver of growth is domestic demand which remains strong, founded on a healthy labour market (the latest data shows nominal wages growing by 4.4%) and supportive fiscal policy, which has contributed an average of 1 percentage point to GDP since the 2008 financial crisis. The government expects demand to hold up well with strong fundamentals including the low unemployment rate (3.1% in October 2017) and steady consumer price inflation (1.7% in October 2017).

While Hong Kong is vulnerable to shocks from both advanced economies and mainland China, it benefits from a well-capitalised banking system and a strong fiscal position: Hong Kong’s banks have a capital adequacy of 18% and the Government currently holds fiscal reserves of HK$952bn, or £99bn (as at the end of 2016), equivalent to 24 months of government expenditure.

Hong Kong’s competitiveness faces some medium-term risks. The consensus across the business community is that air pollution, capacity to innovate and urban space hamper sustainability performances. The World Economic Forum’s 2017-18 competitiveness report highlighted challenges for the city to evolve from one of the world’s foremost financial hubs to an innovative powerhouse, which involves improvement in higher education standards and increased innovation and business sophistication.

Nevertheless Hong Kong is a highly competitive global business hub. As an international finance centre, the World Bank has consistently ranked Hong Kong behind only London and New York. The IMD World Competitiveness rankings 2017 place Hong Kong as the best place to do business worldwide, and in 2017 the Heritage Foundation has ranked Hong Kong as the world’s freest economy (as it has for 23 consecutive years). This competitiveness is based on a solid set of attributes: stable institutions; strong regulators; good infrastructure; large talent pool; and judicial independence and rule of law.

Note: You can access up to date statistics and information at the following websites –

The Census and Statistics Department in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority

Invest Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council Research

The Hong Kong Economic Trade Office in London, UK

The Trade Industry Department (CEPA, Mainland & HK Closer Economic Partnership Agreement)

More information on political risk, including political demonstrations is available in FCO Foreign Travel Advice

5. Bribery and Corruption

Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or as Scottish partnership to bribe anywhere in the world. In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national or resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case, it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere.

In Hong Kong there is zero tolerance for bribery. The Prevention of Bribery Ordinance criminalises bribery and corrupt transactions in both the public and private sectors.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is the government agency which investigates and prosecutes corruption in the public and private sectors in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was ranked 13th (of 180) alongside Belgium in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2017, reflecting its robust structure of checks and balances (the UK was ranked 8th).

Read the information provided on our bribery and corruption page page.

6. Terrorism Threat and Protective Security

There is a low threat from terrorism, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

The level of violent crime is very low, but pick pocketing and other street crime can occur. You should take extra care of passports, credit cards and money in crowded areas and when checking in and out of hotels. For emergencies, the Police can be contacted by calling 999.

Hong Kong is generally a stable society underpinned by the rule of law. While demonstrations are usually conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner, some have been more volatile in nature, resulting in confrontations between police and protesters. You should avoid areas where protests and unplanned public gatherings are taking place if possible, monitor and follow the instructions of the local authorities and take sensible precautions against petty crime if you are nearby.

Please ensure you check foreign travel advice for latest information on risks and precautions.

7. Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) rights are territorial, that is they only give protection in jurisdictions where they are granted or registered. If you are thinking about trading internationally, then you should consider registering your IP rights in your export markets. Specific advice should be sought from qualified professionals either in the UK or overseas.

Hong Kong has a separate IP system to mainland China. The Hong Kong IP legal framework is comprehensive and generally considered to be one of the most effective in Asia. Hong Kong is ranked 9th in the world for IP protection in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017.

Hong Kong is a signatory to several international conventions on IP. Its legislative and administrative regime for IP rights is generally compliant with the World Trade Organization agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department (IPD) is the government department responsible for registration of trade marks, patents and designs, and for overseeing copyright policy. IPD also provides policy advice to the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development on policies and legislation to protect IP in Hong Kong, as well as public outreach activity. Hong Kong Customs and Excise are the primary agency responsible for criminal enforcement against IP infringement. The Hong Kong court system operates according to common law principles and both interim and permanent injunctions can be obtained in IP cases. Hong Kong has no specialist IP court.

UK companies based in or planning to export to Hong Kong are advised to register their IP in Hong Kong and any other jurisdictions where they may want to expand their products and services in future. Some companies also report that they have been the victim of ‘brand squatting’. This is when companies or individuals pre-emptively register a trade mark or company name, intending to negotiate a payment to transfer the rights, and/or to piggy-back on the reputation of international brands. This practice has been particularly prevalent with entities from mainland China, so companies active in Hong Kong should also consider trade mark registration on the mainland.

The European Union has published a guide to protecting IP in Hong Kong aimed at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Please see here.

For more information on IP in mainland China – including contact information for the UK’s IP Attaché in the British Embassy in Beijing – please see here.

8. Organised Crime

The Hong Kong SAR government takes a serious view of organised crime and has in place severe measures to counter it, including large fines and long sentences for drug and firearms trafficking, money laundering and human and goods trafficking. The Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance empowers the Hong Kong’s law enforcement agencies (Hong Kong Police Force, Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department and the Independent Commission Against Corruption) to investigate serious and organised crimes. Uniquely, the Hong Kong Police has specific responsibility for investigating triad-related offences and has dedicated units to take proactive action against triads. While you should be vigilant against triad-related activity, there is no evidence to suggest this is a growing problem.

Hong Kong adopts a common law legal system akin to and almost mirroring UK law. The judicial processes in Hong Kong follow a similar criminal justice system to the UK with a three-tier court structure.

Hong Kong law enforcement agencies can apply to the court for heavier sentences and the confiscation of proceeds arising from certain crimes.

Drugs – use and trafficking

Hong Kong is not a source country for controlled drugs, though there is evidence of its use as a transit point for controlled drugs to other parts of Asia Pacific and elsewhere in the world. Varying methods of trafficking are employed, however the main modus operandi are the use of parcel postal systems and human couriers.

The predominant drugs encountered are ketamine, cocaine and methamphetamine. You should not become involved with illegal drugs of any kind. There is zero tolerance towards the possession and trafficking of controlled drugs as defined by Hong Kong Drugs Ordinance, which will lead to imprisonment. There have been an increasing number of people duped into becoming couriers for drugs parcels either through romance scams or other types of scam. Any approach to act as a courier should be reported to the police as a matter of priority.

Fraud and money laundering

Hong Kong is often seen as an attractive option for money laundering, due to the nature of its financial structure. The money laundering regulations are enforced by the financial investigation bureaus of both the Hong Kong Police Force and Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department. Frauds and scams are ever-evolving, but the emergence of so-called “CEO scams” and email scams has identified vulnerabilities for companies across the globe, including those in Hong Kong. Further information on these and other types of fraud can be obtained via the City of London Police and Action Fraud websites.

Throughout 2015/2016, Hong Kong residents (predominantly local Chinese) were the victims of large-scale telephone deception scams resulting in significant personal losses. Hong Kong police launched an awareness campaign and have taken enforcement action against suspects; however this fraud still remains a risk and the value of losses continues to grow.

For further information you can visit the Hong Kong Police Force website or the Security Bureau websites.

The Hong Kong SAR Government has restrictions in place on the quantity of powdered baby formula allowed for persons departing the territory. Penalties for non-compliance are severe. See: Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department website.

Read the information provided on our Organised crimepage.

For advice on serious organised crime visit the National Crime Agency website.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/overseas-business-risk-hong-kong/overseas-business-risk-hong-kong

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FREE SPEECH: NEW LIMITS, NEW PUNISHMENTS, AND THE FATE OF BENNY TAI

by Suzanne Pepper / Apr 16, 2018

He’s back! Benny Tai is making waves again. No sooner had the Occupy protest effect finally faded than Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting【戴耀廷】 sparked another important political controversy. This time it’s about free speech and the nature of dictatorship.

Tai is a tenured member of the Law Faculty at the University of Hong Kong and the 2014 Occupy Movement in defense of democratic electoral reform was originally his idea (March 14, 2013 post).   Its reverberations seem finally to have run their course with the defeat suffered by Hong Kong’s democracy movement in the special election held last month.

That election was necessary to replace four Occupy-generation Legislative Councilors who had added what Beijing decreed was too much defiant post-Occupy spirit to their swearing-in oaths after the September 2016 Legislative Council (LegCo) election. But activists and voters did not reaffirm that spirit and defy Beijing, as they had continued to do at every opportunity after the street blockades came down in late 2014. Instead of replacing the four disqualified legislators with more of the same, voters seemed finally to tire of the struggle and the promise of a directly-elected local government that had inspired the movement for over three decades.

The result on March 11 was a net loss of two LegCo seats and a sharp decline in pro-democracy voter turnout overall (March 27, 2018 post).  Beijing loyalists claimed victory as well they might. They represent Beijing’s ideal solution for Hong Kong in the form of popularly-elected loyalist political actors.

Undaunted, Benny Tai took the short flight from Hong Kong to Taiwan where he gave a speech that has created another storm … much as his Occupy Central idea did when it began to capture democratic imaginations five years ago.  The significance for Hong Kong’s democracy movement is not so much in what he said, since it was only an academic argument phrased in hypothetical terms; or even where he said it; but in the threatening official blasts that have followed. They have revealed that yet another of Hong Kong’s post-colonial guarantees: Basic Law Article 27 on freedom of expression, is being “adjusted” … along with Article 18 on the Hong Kong application of mainland laws; Article 26 on the right to stand for election; and Articles 45 and 68 on universal suffrage elections.

Fears evoked by last September’s “free speech movement” resurfaced in an instant. The controversy then surrounded the “Hong Kong Independence” banners and slogans that appeared suddenly on the Chinese University campus at the start of the new 2017-18 school year. The fears arose as those demanding the right to articulate their views were confronted by angry opponents… mainland students on campus, off-campus patriotic vigilantes, and everyone in positions of official authority (Sept. 29, 2017 post).   The slogans, they all said, must come down because they “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” and challenged Beijing’s  sovereign right to rule.

That episode reminded everyone involved about the axiom tying free speech to dictatorship: the latter strengthens as the space for free speech narrows and punishment for disobedience increases. The mainland political system is a dictatorship and its standards were being imposed on students in charge of maintaining the Chinese University’s Democracy Wall bulleting boards.

Tensions eased as the school year got under way. But Hong Kong’s Justice Department is preparing to throw the book at Benny Tai. He is under indictment on charges stemming from the Occupy protest movement that can land him in prison for many years. Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong will be satisfied with nothing less if their thunderous response to his Taiwan comments are any indication. The trial is scheduled to begin later this year and Benny Tai must have calculated that he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb when he decided to say what he wanted to say at the Taipei seminar.

THE SETTING

The seminar was sponsored by a group called the Taiwan Anti-Communist Youth Corps. It was celebrating the tenth anniversary of its foudning【太灣青年反共救囯團十周年紀念活動 】 with a two-day event held over the March 24-25 week-end (Wen Wei Pao, Hong Kong, March 24).

Others attending from Hong Kong included: one-time (1990s) radical and veteran democratic politician Emily Lau Wai-ching, now a leading member of the moderate Democratic Party; and post-Occupy activist Yau Wai-ching, who lost her Legislative Council seat in the 2016-17 oath-taking saga. This is the seat that was just won by a pro-Beijing loyalist in last month’s special by-election … the ultimate mark of defeat for the Occupy generation.

The seminar’s theme featured “five independencies” meaning five regions and ethnic groups desirous of achieving independence from the central Chinese government: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang-Uigurs, and Mongolians. The theme was sure to provoke hyperventilation in Beijing and Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing press was ready with bio-data from the files on key members and associates of the husband and wife team who run the group.

The husband, Lin Pao-hua,【林保 華】is reportedly one of Benny Tai’s old University of Hong Kong colleagues. The wife, Yang Yueh-ch’ing【楊月清】is reportedly an old friend of Martin Lee and Emily Lau, both past Hong Kong Democratic Party chairs and both identified as “traitors”【漢奸】in the account by Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao newspaper (Mar. 30).

The husband set up the Youth Corps and together husband and wife have befriended several youthful leaders from Hong Kong’s post-Occupy generation including Yau Wai-ching, Nathan Law, Joshua Wong, and Ray Wong. The latter is currently on the lam in Europe where the long arm of Hong Kong law has yet to locate him. He is wanted to stand trial for his role in the 2016 Lunar New Year Mong Kok riot.

WHAT HE SAID

Despite the provocative setting, Professor Tai’s comments seemed innocuous enough … at least to those listening from a distance. Whatever else he might also have said, the selections as reported from his Taiwan speech that caused the uproar were about Hong Kong and China’s future.

Tai suggested that China would not only become a democratic country and enjoy universal suffrage, but it would allow its people self-determination【自決】. Hong Kongers would be included among the people who could consider what they wanted: whether to become an independent state or participate in the creation of a federated Chinese government. He said such events would surely come to pass and in the not too distant future.

He was quoted as saying: “Among China’s many different peoples … they can decide whether or not they should establish a relationship that would allow all to join together. We can consider whether to become an independent state, or whether we can be part of a federation, or become like a part of the European Union. This is democratic self-determination, involving different peoples, everyone with an equal right to decide their own future, and this is also the way for Hong Kong’s future” (Ta Kung Pao, Mar. 26). *

OFFICIAL RESPONSES: Hong Kong, Beijing

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing media had been blasting the Taiwan event from day one, so the Hong Kong government was actually late off the mark and allegedly under great “pressure” from Beijing. A statement expressed shock and strong condemnation upon learning of Benny Tai’s comments, especially since they came from a university professor. He should know that any advocacy for separating Hong Kong from the mainland violates Hong Kong’s “one-country, two-systems” governing principle and Hong Kong’s Basic Law constitution (South China Morning Post, March 31; Ming Pao, Mar. 31, Apr. 7).

Chinese officials, in Beijing and Hong Kong, followed on cue. Statements from the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing and Beijing’s Hong Kong Liaison Office said that some Hong Kongers were colluding with outside forces to advocate Hong Kong independence. Their aim is to divide the country, in violation of its national constitution, Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and the one-country, two-systems governing principle. Such advocacies cannot be tolerated (April 1: SCMPMing Pao). A few days later, with rhetorical tempers rising, the head of Hong Kong’s Liaison Office said any one who opposed communist party leadership was guilty of criminal behavior (SCMP, April 7; Hsin Pao/HK Econ. Journal, Apr. 7-8).

Tai initially suggested that the government should have checked what he actually said before criticizing him. So Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam waited a week. She said it was because she wanted to watch the YouTube video of his comments and decide for herself. But Carrie Lam now sees and hears such things with mainland eyes and ears.

She therefore rejected accusations that the government’s criticism threatened the principle of free speech. She said the two were not related. She said the government must defend national security and territorial integrity and speech that encourages independence or self-determination is beyond the pale. Such speech is unacceptable because it goes against the national constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the authority of which derives from the national constitution (April 7: SCMPMing Pao).

TAI’S REBUTTAL

Professor Tai said he, too, was shocked … by the severity of the official condemnation. *   It was as though he had committed a crime with his words. In fact, the only thing new about them was the setting in which he uttered them. Tai pointed out that he had presented the same ideas in Hong Kong, while lecturing and in newspaper articles without provoking any such reaction.

He repeated what he had said in Taiwan about the eventual demise of Chinese dictatorship, to be replaced by some form of democratic governance. He speculated that in denouncing his comments so forcefully, the government was preparing the public for the much-feared reintroduction of national political security legislation, as mandated by Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Among other things it aims to criminalize acts of treason, sedition, secession, and subversion. The first attempt to pass such legislation was shelved after a massive upsurge of dissent in 2003.

Tai also said he feared that the strongly worded official condemnation was meant to frighten others who might want to exercise their right to speak out by discussing Hong Kong’s political future. He cited the old Chinese saying about killing a chicken to frighten the monkeys and elaborated further on his Facebookpages … and in countless media interviews.

He wrote that he is an ordinary Hong Kong citizen without any official position or political party affiliation either here or elsewhere. He speaks only for himself and accepts personal responsibility for what he says. Yet the Hong Kong government and some important political parties and even Beijing officials had raised a hue and cry.

He wrote that he has always believed Hong Kong to be a free society and although it didn’t have democracy, it still lived under the rule of law, and free speech for citizens was guaranteed. What he had said in Taiwan was nothing new, already published in his newspaper columns here, and others said similar things … all just some ideas about the future. Yet just because of this, he had been fiercely criticized and Beijing authorities had asked that he be dealt with severely in accordance with the law.

He found it all very alarming. Had Hong Kong already entered the stage where words could be criminalized or at least used by others to create a chill among the public? Perhaps later, Hong Kongers would not be able to criticize and oppose the authorities, and might even feel obliged to express approval of them …

Nevertheless, he vowed to carry on peacefully, promoting the cause of freedom and democracy  …  so that one day Hong Kong might achieve democracy. Then he would be able to say he had fought the good fight, traveled that road, and remained true to his beliefs.

He also posed some lawyer-like questions addressed to Chief Executive Carrie Lam … based on the well-known fact that he himself is not among Hong Kong’s independence advocates.

Please clarify, he wrote, how I advocated Hong Kong independence and self-determination. Is it advocacy to discuss what kind of future relationship China and Hong Kong might have? If so, does that mean Hong Kong is now limiting free speech?

Why didn’t you give me a chance to explain before criticizing me? Does the SAR government think that when exercising its authority, it’s not necessary to adhere to the principle of fairness?

In the past, in Hong Kong, I’ve said much the same thing. But the SAR government had expressed no opinion one way or the other. Does that mean my views really do not contravene the constitution and the Basic Law? So now it is only my brief comments at the seminar that have been taken out of context to elicit so strong a reprimand?

In Hong Kong, many people speak out directly and clearly in support of independence and self-determination. So why hasn’t the SAR government ever criticized them so severely? Why single me out? Is there some political reason? If so, isn’t that very unfair?

Why is the SAR government leveling so serious a condemnation at an ordinary citizen just for speaking overseas since I have never been criticized before for saying the same things in my teaching? Is it that you cannot admit your political reasons and objectives? (also in, Apple Daily, April 7)

NEW BOUNDARIES, NEW PUNISHMENTS

The axiom holds. Dictatorship strengthens as the scope for free political expression narrows and punishments for overstepping the new boundary lines increase. The Beijing authorities are surely presiding over a dictatorship and they don’t welcome the suggestion that their dictatorship might one day, in the not too distant future, give way to the force of democratic change. They are further incensed by the links some Hong Kong activists have maintained and are continuing to establish with Taiwan independence partisans

The new boundaries are national sovereignty and China’s territorial integrity: the inviolability of the nation-state unified under the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), now and forever more.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam is doing her best but she’s new to the job and unfamiliar with the logic of communist party rule. Asked to speak again on the subject during a Legislative Council question-and-answer session last week, all she could say about Benny Tai’s transgressions was that they had nothing to do with freedom of speech and academic discourse (HsinPao/HKEconJournal, April 12).

Much better at explaining the new rules is Tam Yiu-chung.  He is a long-time leader of Hong Kong’s loyalist pro-Beijing community and a past chairman of Hong Kong’s largest political party the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). He is also a member of Hong Kong’s delegation to the National People’s Congress and has just been named as Hong Kong’s representative on its Standing Committee (NPCSC). This is the formal government authority responsible for issuing mandates and ultimatums on how Beijing wants Hong Kong to interpret its Basic Law constitution. Hong Kong is now being warned that discussion of independence is out of bounds and free speech is not an excuse for overstepping them.

Tam minced no words. He called Benny Tai a hypocrite for saying he himself did not support the idea of independence but was only discussing it as a future possibility. Tam also said there should be exceptions to honoring the principle of free speech. The exceptions are national security and social order (China Daily, Apr. 4).

Tam paraphrased an old Chinese saying to blast Benny Tai for “advertising lamb but selling Hong Kong independence instead” (HsinPao/HKEcon Journal, Apr. 6). The saying, about deception and false advertising, refers to the practice of luring customers with promises of lamb when only dog meat is available.

Tam Yiu-chung explained more fully in the context of President Xi Jinping’s new demands. At the annual March meeting of the NPC last month, among the changes to China’s national constitution initiated by Pres. Xi was one affirming the leadership of the CCP. The amendment has a bearing on Hong Kong, explained Tam, because Hong Kong’s Basic Law derives its authority from the national constitution (China Daily, Apr. 10; also, Wen Wei Po, Mar. 24).

The point was belabored repeatedly to denounce Benny Tai and demand he be punished accordingly. Beijing’s Hong Kong liaison office director advised all Hong Kongers to accept the constitution and the leadership of the CCP as the foundation for Hong Kong’s future. Almost all the pro-establishment members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council issued a joint statement denouncing Benny Tai for suggesting the idea of Hong Kong independence. They said he had already caused enough trouble and should stop disrupting Hong Kong with his political schemes (South China Morning Post, Apr. 2).

Local pro-Beijing newspapers excoriated him as an academic swindler and political crook, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, poisoning the minds of young students with his teachings, and shamelessly complaining about being harrassed by patriotic vigilantes who have been trying to mobilize opinion against him with old-style  revolutionary “criticism-struggle” routines.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing politicians said he must be held accountable. Activists and editorials called for his dismissal from the university and one lawsuit has been filed attempting to deprive him of his passport … on grounds he has denounced his Chinese nationality (SCMP, Apr. 5).

From Beijing, the overseas edition of the official People’s Daily called on the Hong Kong government to take legal action under existing laws where a case might be made against him for seditious intent (SCMP, Apr. 3, 4).

The message: “There is no space for so-called academic freedom where it involves so serious and great a political principle as respecting and adhering to the national constitution. Under ‘one-country, two-systems,’ there is no space for so-called academic freedom to allow Hong Kong to violate the national constitution” (Ta Kung Pao, editorial, Apr. 3).

As for Benny Tai, he’s taking it all in stride. He confesses to bouts of disappointment after every setback, but then always manages to bounce back with some new idea. After Occupy … which he had envisaged as a three-day sit-down in the financial district only to see it balloon into 79 days of city-wide street blockades … he came up with Thunder-Go.

This was a plan for the 2016 Legislative Council election, intended to discourage pro-democracy candidates from their usual habit of competing against each other. The plan failed to catch on until the very end, when his online guides produced a sudden upsurge of voters for the young post-Occupy candidates. Many won only to immediately lose their seats in the oath-taking saga. He joked about the way his bright ideas always seem to get out of hand (Jan. 20, 2017 post).

Now he’s embroiled in another controversy and acknowledges that the youthful idealism he helped generate is dissipating under the weight of Beijing’s heavy hand. Still, others may be giving up, but Benny Tai is not. He has a new plan. This one is aimed at encouraging pro-democracy candidates to win more seats on Hong Kong’s 18 District Councils. These have long-since been taken over by the DAB, the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, and their pro-establishment allies.

Benny Tai knows he’ll probably be sitting in a prison cell by the time the 2019 District Councils election rolls around. But he calls himself an optimist and an idealist in search of solutions. And ever the happy warrior, his prison plans are already taking shape.

He says he has gained new inspiration from a speculative book about China’s future recently published by American academic David Shambaugh. Like many others, Tai says that for now political reform in Hong Kong is at a dead end. So he has devised an escape route, into the future where, from his prison cell, he can continue to defy the authorities. This he will do by writing a speculative book of his own about the future, exploring his new insights on the long-term prospects for Chinese dictatorship and democracy (Hong Kong Free Press interview, Apr. 12).

 

* For Tai’s comments, in Chinese, see YouTube videos on 3/24 and 3/25 https://www.youtube.com/user/bulamyang .

Also in Chinese, his rebuttals to the accusations against him are posted on his Facebook page.

 

hkfocus2017@gmail.com 
Posted by Suzanne Pepper on April 16, 2018.

The post FREE SPEECH: NEW LIMITS, NEW PUNISHMENTS, AND THE FATE OF BENNY TAIappeared first on Hong Kong Focus.
https://chinaelectionsblog.net/2018/04/16/free-speech-new-limits-new-punishments-fate-benny-tai/

Mid-week links for the gentry…

by biglychee / Today, 10:33

Hong Kong Free Press puts Chief Executive Carrie Lam on the spot by asking her whether it could be illegal for the media to cover people who make pro-independence remarks. (That’s gratitude, after all she’s done for them.)

Any answer short of ‘no, why should they be?’ implicitly confirms that criminalization of ideas is on the way, so the lady was doomed from the start. She could have dismissed the question as hypothetical, but that word has already been claimed by Benny Tai’s independence-related comments at the infamous Taiwan conference, so she couldn’t. Instead, she basically said it depends on how the law evolves, which isn’t too bad considering she had no warning of the question – unless you thought freedom of speech might be secure in Hong Kong, in which case it is shocking.

More about Benny Tai and the conference here. It will not escape the notice of dissenters and trouble-makers in Hong Kong that the pushing of certain buttons provokes predictable degrees of Deranged Ballistic Mouth-froth Freak-out among Communist Party officials. Thus, talk of ‘independence’ sets off a Mega-Tantrum that’s 6 on the Richter scale, and if you combine it with mention of the CCP losing power it hits a 7, and if you utter these words in Taipei, it’s an 8 (as Taiwanese all know, it’s a logarithmic scale).

Deep Throat IPO’s latest opus is so big the executive summaries have executive summaries. He considers global shadow banking and the US$100 trillion it manages mostly in itsy-bitsy places like the Caymans and Luxembourg and, shall we say, certain Asian cities, and how fast these assets plus leverage have been growing compared with world GDP. And the question is: where the hell is all this offshore wealth actually coming from? The answer seems to be connected with discrepancies/anomalies/lies in international trade data. But that leads to the obvious real question: yes, but where, as in – name the place – does the money come from?

You probably know or can guess the answer, but still – yikes!

Among his references are several discussions touching on China’s unbelievable GDP stability. As with the detailed bulk of Deep Throat IPO’s piece, this is verging on economics-geek territory but worth it if you like that sort of thing: Michael Pettis on how China uses GDP as an input. Much of China’s apparent growth, he says, will be reversed when debt capacity is reached.

On a lighter (reading) note, an update on United Front infiltration in New Zealand.

 http://biglychee.com/?p=19500

Research shows what we already knew…

by biglychee / Yesterday, 11:50

A City University academic survey suggests that Beijing’s heavy-handed approach to pushing patriotism in Hong Kong alienates people and encourages the sense of local identity it aims to curb. No great surprise for most of us – but it might be news to our local leadership, which is slavishly implementing Beijing’s directives to ban disrespect to the national anthem and generate panic about ‘independence’ talk.

Perhaps without realizing it, one of the researchers touches on some sensitive areas. She asserts that local and national identities are not in a zero-sum relationship, even though Chinese Communist Party ethnic and cultural policy in non-Han regions like Tibet and Xinjiang clearly assumes that the two are indeed in a struggle for supremacy. She also says:

“Rather than stressing its overall control over the city or instilling nationalism, [Beijing] should try to restore Hong Kong people’s confidence in it.”

Presumably, she means confidence in the city and its future, though confidence in Beijing would mean much the same in practice.

There is a problem here because diminishing Hong Kong’s self-confidence as a successful and distinct – autonomous – society has been a core theme of Beijing since the handover in 1997, especially since 2003.

During the 1980s-90s, the local administration bolstered its legitimacy by being seen to promote the city’s own interests, colonial officials even clashing with UK counterparts on trade and other issues. And it encouraged hope in the future by emphasizing the sustainability of Hong Kong’s economic role as the place that performs the functions that can’t be done on the Mainland.

By contrast, the post-colonial regime and Beijing have encouraged the idea that Hong Kong’s economy depends on China’s benevolence. They have encouraged worries about Hong Kong ‘falling behind’ or ‘losing out’ to Shenzhen or Shanghai. And they have constantly stressed ‘integration’ with the Mainland as an economic necessity – now taking physical form in the Zhuhai Bridge and High-Speed Rail projects and the ‘Greater Bay Area’ concept, which seems to be about symbolic absorption of Hong Kong into a larger regional entity.

By accident or design, Beijing has made this something of a self-fulfilling prophecy by appointing increasingly incompetent local leaders who are mismanaging Hong Kong into stagnation and a downward trajectory.

City U’s researchers (presumably mainstream pro-democrats at heart) won’t want to hear this, but it is not a point of whether localists are ‘anti-Beijing’ – Beijing is anti-localist/Hong Kong identity, and that’s all that matters. The younger radicals get that.

Leninists don’t do hearts and minds, and only one side can ultimately win. HK Free Press picks up here with an illuminating discursion culminating in the question: will the Communist Party’s ongoing crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong create a silent and servile population, or will it eventually provoke a bigger anti-Beijing backlash?

 http://biglychee.com/?p=19488

Benny Tai forces Beijing to ban free speech in HK

by biglychee / Apr 13, 2018

The South China Morning Post does a full-page feature on why the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front in Hong Kong orchestrated a full-blown contrived mass-mouth-froth outrage-frenzy against academic Benny Tai. But it doesn’t really answer the question.

The article assumes that the problem lies within Hong Kong. It mentions the standard pro-Beijing line that independence talk (especially when visiting Taiwan) is unacceptable, and the reasonable opposition view that Beijing wants a reason to pass local national-security laws. The SCMP manages to find both a pro-establishment politician and a pro-democrat to suggest that Benny Tai and others like him should moderate themselves to spare Hong Kong from harsher measures (‘the victim asked for it’).

The feature ignores the wider context of Xi Jinping’s increasingly repressive rule throughout China – from re-education camps in Xinjiang, to leadership purges, to the tormenting of abducted lawyers’ families, to tightened Internet censorship, to the creeping personality cultsurrounding the Emperor for Life.

So, why have the big guns all turned on Benny? China’s Leninist-minded rulers fear and cannot tolerate anything they do not control; Hong Kong’s pluralist system is therefore incompatible with the one-party state, and it must be constrained and ultimately subjugated. Benny is an easy, high-visibility target. There are many more. Barring the downfall of the CCP (a subject at the conference he attended), there is nothing much anyone can do about this.

Benny says he checks his car and phone for bugs and suspects he is being followed – and he is no doubt right. Should we all be getting more paranoid?

I have recently been inundated with hundreds of fake ‘followers’ on Twitter, many but not all with Chinese names or profiles. I am not alone: they generally follow Neil deGrasse Tyson, Denise Ho, the Pope, at least one Obama, Jerome Cohen, and (more to the point) many familiar esteemed China/HK/Taiwan journos and commentators (an example). The bots, or whatever they are, don’t seem to do any harm – but you wonder what’s going on. (Maybe they’ll be sold on to spammers?)

And then… (cue sinister violins). A few days ago I received my renewed (though I never use it) Hong Kong driver’s licence through the mail, all purely routine. When I opened the envelope from the Transport Department, there was: the new licence, a covering letter, a receipt for the fee, some blather about updating addresses – and an HSBC letter addressed to me personally at my home address offering the usual dumb special exclusive loan.

(Background for those who have led sheltered lives: putting the wrong items back into envelopes when intercepting mail is a classic dumb police-state screw-up.)

After freaking mildly, I assured myself the bank promo must have been on the table already, folded, and I picked it up with the envelope so it just appeared to come out with the licence. Even though I don’t remember having seen it before…

(Reading too much of this, maybe.)

I declare the weekend open with some slightly-cosmic extra detail: my driving instructor many, many years ago was a wizened KMT Army veteran who prophesied constantly that the Communists would doom Hong Kong to totalitarian tyranny.

http://biglychee.com/?p=19469

It’s kneeling-on-broken-glass time again…

Chinese media regulators clamp down on tech-media companies for allowing undesirable (vulgar, satirical) content. Toutiao boss Zhang Yiming responds with what would until recently have seemed a shockingly excessive pre-emptive kowtow and self-criticism.

His statement – here in its full hideousness – apologizes for ‘a weak [understanding of] the four consciousnesses’ and failure to respect ‘socialist core values’, and promises to introduce ‘correct values’. (See CMP link for exciting details of the Four Consciousnesses®.) Zhang concludes by saying: ‘We earnestly await help from various parts of society in supervising our rectification’.

Wouldn’t you? This is a time when Mainland tycoons are being rectified through official shakedowns and even abduction, and enemies of the state are routinely forced to make televised confessions.

In Hong Kong, when they’re not ranting about a lawmaker outraging the national flag, the local Red Guards are calling for academic Benny Tai’s blood. The South China Morning Post gives top spot on its letters page today to pro-Beijing legislator Holden Chow insisting that Tai is abusing freedom of speech and will engender hatred and violence, so HK University must fire him. (To add to the ambience, the SCMP online inserts a photo of a sinister hooded marauding arsonist-rioter – roughly Benny’s height – emerging from the darkness to crush babies to death with bricks.)

The United Front-contrived mob-ambush of Benny ‘threat to the nation’ Tai, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam obediently joining in, may look bizarre or even ridiculous. But to the Communist Party officials behind the scenes, it is intended to serve as a warning to everyone else. The best we can do while we’re waiting for TVB and RTHK to install cages and shackles in their studios.

Scholars and historians rush to explain that we are not seeing a re-run of the Cultural Revolution in all this, on account of Xi-not-being-Mao and so on. They sound perfectly reasonable. So you can read this hilarious SCMP op-ed piece for the laughs.

http://biglychee.com/?p=19462

If you think HK’s opposition has it bad…

by biglychee / Today, 10:50

While the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly targeting Hong Kong’s radical and pan-democrat opposition, life for the city’s pro-Beijing loyalists isn’t getting any easier. Delegates to the nation’s rubber-stamp NPC and CPPCC are under orders to start taking their status-symbol roles seriously – attending those tedious annual meetings in the capital and submitting reports on their selfless patriotic work back home during the rest of the year.

This will put pressure on pro-establishment professionals and businessmen accustomed to keeping their heads down when things get ideological. The message is: stop sitting on the fence and give us some displays of love for the glorious motherland and overt support for United Front campaigns.

So, when the word goes out that everyone is to (for example) scream and rant about the horrors of Benny Tai’s latest comment, they should rush to sign – nay, organize – petitions and statements dutifully freaking out. Beijing officials might be watching and noting each loyalist’s efforts, or they might not be. It doesn’t matter. The shoe-shiners will lie awake at night worrying whether their pre-emptive gratuitous gestures of obeisance have been enough. As intended.

Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing ‘politicians’ – lawmakers and council members – already publicly follow the Party line, so they know what it feels like. It feels crappy, because you have to align yourself with unpopular and stupid government policies and people shout at you in the street because of it. Yes, zombies have feelings, too.

Imagine the bitterness when, after all your devotion to the patriotic cause, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has dinner with the dastardly Democratic Party, and even gives them a HK$30,000 donation (hey, it’s not the principle, it’s the money). They are sorely miffed and feel taken for granted.

Carrie has reasons for supping with the Dems. To the Liaison Office, the veteran opposition group of has-been weenies probably looks ripe for splitting from radicals in classic (tiresome, obsessive) United Front fashion. And although our formal political process is increasingly ceremonial, pan-dem backing for relatively non-idiotic policies lends officials some desperately needed credibility.

But it hurts the pro-Beijing camp to see Carrie giving face to the enemy. Face is the only reward they really get for their loyalty. (As pro-establishment business types know deep down, the Communist Party mainly compensates its supporters by withholding harm rather than bestowing positive advantages.) Now they are finding it hard to recruit youthful ‘talent’. Having to recite Beijing’s line on anything means that, even if you win an ‘election’, you still look like a loser.

Bottom line: the Communist Party kicks its devotees in the teeth in the end, anyway – you might as well have enjoyed your freedom and conscience as part of the dreaded, despicable hostile forces.

Feels like time for another four-day weekend – but tragically it is not to be. Some reading for those with time to spare over the next couple of days…

A wrap-up on the NY Times story on the South China Morning Post (so you don’t have to read either of them!)

Two live reports – this and this – on presentations looking at what Belt and Road really means.

Some more deepening grimness on the deepening grimness of Xi Jinping’s dictatorship.

tour of Beijing’s forgotten theme park/resort wastelands.

And I declare the weekend open with the best PhD thesis ever on songstress Denise Ho.

http://biglychee.com/?p=19431

Beijing grapples with bogey man

by biglychee

There was a time when ‘Hong Kong independence’ didn’t exist. So Chinese officials had to  invent it. Chief Executive-at-the-time CY Leung highlighted the little-known concept as a looming danger in a policy address three years ago. If the plan was to fabricate or exaggerate a subversive threat, it worked. To many people who had never previously thought about it, separatism sounded like a brilliant and appealing, if idealistic or theoretical, solution to Hong Kong’s problems.

It became one of Beijing’s most popular local ideas!

But having contrived ‘pro-independence’, the mighty Chinese Communist Party must now fight and destroy it – and it almost looks as if they are panicking in fear of the bogey man.

Beijing and its local puppets have used supposed pro-independence thought-crimes to bar radicals from the Legislative Council. And they have now choreographed an absurd mass-freak-out (including an inane ‘shocked’ government statement) over academic Benny Tai, who mentioned independence as one of many hypothetical scenarios at a conference no-one would ever have heard of in Taiwan.

The United Front would keep special tabs on Benny for his role in Occupy (he still awaits trial for somehow instigating the Umbrella uprising) and as a chicken to be tormented to warn Hong Kong’s monkey-academics to keep in line. As a special target for demonization, he is a crap choice – a harmless podgy intellectual – but the CCP seem desperate.

Benny says he is being followed, and that if he crosses the border, it will be against his will whatever he apparently says at the time. This would once have sounded over-dramatic, but is now sensible.

Some good background to all this is here. A key point is that the government insists that talk of independence ‘goes against the Basic Law’ or similar wording suggesting it is illegal, but it has never prosecuted anyone. This is because to propose independence is merely to propose a change to the constitution (or to CCP policy, or to whatever) – it’s simply an opinion. Another is that Benny, disqualified lawmakers and many others who get the full United Front orchestrated mouth-froth treatment are not even proposing independence.

Beijing’s local officials are going overboard in whipping up hatred of dastardly splittists and their ideas. ‘Independence’ clearly scares the CCP (perhaps they are dimly becoming aware that it is a de facto reality in Taiwan), and they are visibly anxious to implement Article 23 or other national security measures that will set a precedent for the criminalization of opinions in Hong Kong (and thus censorship). The more agitated and impatient they get, the harder and more counter-productive it will be.

http://biglychee.com/?p=19418

Govt condemns Benny Tai’s independence remarks – RTHK

Benny Tai says he is disappointed that the government put out a statement condemning him before knowing all the facts. File photo: RTHK

Benny Tai says he is disappointed that the government put out a statement condemning him before knowing all the facts. File photo: RTHK

The government condemned on Friday University of Hong Kong’s law professor Benny Tai for suggesting the SAR could consider becoming an independent state.

Tai, one of the leaders of the 2014 Occupy movement, reportedly made the remarks in Taiwan while attending a forum organised by a group that advocates the independence of the island.

China not only has to become a democratic country, but Chinese people, including Hong-kongers, should think about whether or not they want to set up an independent state or a federal government, Tai said.

Responding to media enquiries, a government spokesman said advocating independence for Hong Kong is not in line with the Basic Law, or “One country, Two systems”, and Hong Kong’s overall and long-term interests. 

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is shocked by the remarks made by a university teaching staff member that Hong Kong could consider becoming an independent state, and strongly condemns such remarks,” the spokesman said.

In response, Tai said he’s disappointed the government put out the statement before knowing all the facts, adding that there’s nothing new about what he said. 

He also questioned whether or not the government’s high-profile statement was intended to pave the way for the introduction of national security laws, and to suppress the discussion and imagination of Hong Kong and the mainland’s future.

http://news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/component/k2/1388836-20180330.htm

‘Any enactment of Article 23 must not undermine basic rights and freedoms’: UK government statement 

hongkongwatch.org

by Johnny Patterson / Mar 29, 2018

The UK government Minister also said that ‘confidence in rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s reputation as a global centre for business.’

parliament.jpgFollowing the publication of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s six monthly report which said that one-country, two-systems is under ‘increasing pressure’, UK Parliamentarians have taken a more active interest in Hong Kong’s human rights and freedoms, raising 13 questions in March 2018. 

In response to these questions, the UK government yesterday said that future national security legislation in Hong Kong must not undermine the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, and highlighted that ‘confidence in rule of law is essential for ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and for Hong Kong’s reputation as a global centre for business.’

The statement was in response to a question from Labour MP, Geraint Davies, who asked what assessment the Minister had made ‘of the potential effect the proposed Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 legislation on British businesses operating in Hong Kong.’

The Right Honourable Mark Field, Minister of State for Asia, said:   

“Any enactment of Article 23 legislation is for the Hong Kong Government to decide, in consultation with the people of Hong Kong.

“Should the Hong Kong Government seek to introduce a bill, the FCO regards it as important that there is dialogue between all parties; and that any legislation does not undermine the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.

“The rule of law and independence of the judiciary is the foundation on which Hong Kong’s success and prosperity is built. Despite challenges, Hong Kong’s rule of law remains robust and the judiciary remains in high esteem. Confidence in rule of law is essential for ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and for Hong Kong’s reputation as a global centre for business.”

Benedict Rogers, the Chairman of Trustees for Hong Kong Watch, welcomed the statement:

“The UK government have made a clear statement that any new legislation in the coming years must not undermine the basic rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. This means that any future, and current, National Security Legislation must conform to the international human rights standards which are laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Johannesburg Principles on National Security.”

Mr Davies is one of a number of Parliamentarians to have expressed concerns about the consequences that the erosion that the rule of law in Hong Kong could have on British businesses. In March 2018, Democratic Unionist MP Jim Shannon, Conservative MP Bob Blackman and Labour Party Lord Ray Collins of Highbury all raised the same concern through Written Parliamentary Questions, receiving similar responses from the UK government about the importance of rule of law for Hong Kong’s reputation as a global centre of business.

Benedict Rogers said:

“At a time when we are hearing judges in Hong Kong voicing fears over the state of rule of law in Hong Kong, it is right that Members of Parliament are raising the potential impact that eroding rule of law could have on international business. The government are correct to say that ‘Confidence in rule of law is essential for ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and for Hong Kong’s reputation as a global centre for businesses.’ Human rights and rule of law are designed to safeguard everyone – from individual protestors to corporations. For the sake of Hong Kong’s status as a global centre for business, it is critical that these are upheld.”

In other questions, Conservative MP Richard Burden and the Democratic Unionist MP Sammy Wilson both asked questions about the UK government’s response to the detention of Gui Minhai. The Right Honourable Mark Field responded by saying that the UK had ‘repeatedly raised these cases at the most senior levels with the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing’, and that the UK ‘fully support’ the robust statements made by the EU.

https://www.hongkongwatch.org/all-posts/2018/3/29/any-enactment-of-article-23-must-not-undermine-basic-rights-and-freedoms-uk-government-statement