Hong Kong elite pressed to give up western passports

Beijing is urgent Hong Kong’s elite to surrender their western passports to be able to be chosen for the Chinese language parliament because it tries to stamp out international affect and tighten management of the territory.

Officers instructed politicians and tycoons wishing to characterize Hong Kong at China’s high decision-making physique to resign passports or journey paperwork from international locations together with the UK, in response to one new delegate, one former delegate and one other individual briefed on the choice course of.

Members of China’s Nationwide Folks’s Congress, which opened its annual assembly on the weekend, are chosen each 5 years. In December, Beijing chosen 36 delegates from Hong Kong, the primary time they’ve chosen representatives from the territory for the reason that 2019 pro-democracy protests, which China blamed on “international forces”.

Whereas Hong Kong residents maintain Chinese language passports, many residents of the previous UK colony are eligible for the British Nationwide (Abroad) journey doc, which is a path to citizenship. Vital numbers additionally maintain Canadian, Australian or US passports.

Not less than one NPC delegate intending to hunt one other time period was denied a seat as a result of they held a BNO, the folks stated. Whereas Beijing had beforehand stated that BNO holders had been eligible for the NPC, the “message was both you give it up otherwise you don’t run”, stated one other former NPC delegate.

The Hong Kong Liaison Workplace, Beijing’s consultant within the metropolis, didn’t reply to a request for remark.

The strain to resign international passports comes after Beijing carried out a “patriots ruling Hong Kong” coverage, an intensive vetting programme for management roles within the metropolis as China seeks to sideline native politicians with robust ties to the west from highly effective positions. The principles additionally govern elections for the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s de facto parliament, which is now comprised solely of pro-Beijing legislators.

An NPC Hong Kong delegate chosen by Beijing instructed the Monetary Occasions that Beijing’s concern was “comprehensible as delegates had been working for one of the vital” our bodies within the nation.

Lau Siu-kai, a Beijing adviser and vice-president of the Chinese language Affiliation of Hong Kong and Macao Research, stated holding international passports or journey paperwork might be a safety threat.

“China is going through rising nationwide safety threats from the US and the west,” Lau stated. “And when Britain has been providing BN(O) as a pathway to residency and citizenship . . . it creates questions of loyalty.”

Whereas some international locations impose citizenship necessities on elected officers, the scenario presents a take a look at for Hong Kong’s globe-trotting elite, lots of whom need to retain twin nationality.

After the 2019 protests, greater than 160,000 Hongkongers utilized for British citizenship, with at the least 105,200 having already arrived within the UK.

The scheme has riled Beijing, with former international ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying “all of our Hong Kong Chinese language compatriots are Chinese language residents”. China has additionally stated it won’t recognise UK passports supplied to former Hong Kong residents.

CY Leung, a senior Chinese language official and Hong Kong’s former chief, instructed the FT final week that each one political figures in Hong Kong, together with representatives to Beijing political our bodies and members of the pro-government legislature, “ought to quit international passports, [and] undoubtedly British and US ones”, citing the danger of sanctions as a cause.

“Would the lengthy arm of US [prosecutors target those who held on to their passports] as US residents . . . performing in opposition to US curiosity or ideology?”

Throughout a nationwide safety schooling occasion final month, Leung stated these refusing to surrender their paperwork had been “making up nonsense excuses”.

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