Hong Kong elite pressed to give up western passports

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

Officers informed politicians and tycoons wishing to symbolize 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 because the 2019 pro-democracy protests, which China blamed on “overseas 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. Important numbers additionally maintain Canadian, Australian or US passports.

At the very least one NPC delegate intending to hunt one other time period was denied a seat as a result of they held a BNO, the folks mentioned. Whereas Beijing had beforehand mentioned that BNO holders have been eligible for the NPC, the “message was both you give it up otherwise you don’t run”, mentioned 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 stress to resign overseas 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 sturdy ties to the west from highly effective positions. The foundations additionally govern elections for the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s de facto parliament, which is now comprised fully of pro-Beijing legislators.

An NPC Hong Kong delegate chosen by Beijing informed the Monetary Instances that Beijing’s concern was “comprehensible as delegates have been operating for probably the most 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, mentioned holding overseas passports or journey paperwork could possibly be a safety danger.

“China is going through rising nationwide safety threats from the US and the west,” Lau mentioned. “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 state of affairs 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 not less than 105,200 having already arrived within the UK.

The scheme has riled Beijing, with former overseas ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying “all of our Hong Kong Chinese language compatriots are Chinese language residents”. China has additionally mentioned it is not going to recognise UK passports provided to former Hong Kong residents.

CY Leung, a senior Chinese language official and Hong Kong’s former chief, informed the FT final week that every one political figures in Hong Kong, together with representatives to Beijing political our bodies and members of the pro-government legislature, “ought to hand over overseas passports, [and] positively British and US ones”, citing the chance of sanctions as a cause.

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

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

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