Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents flee Beijing - but the western capital is holding on

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents flee Beijing – but the western capital is holding on

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Parliamentary elections are being held today in Hong Kong, China with a special status, under the radically revised election laws by the Chinese legislature this spring. The previous 70-member body has grown to 90, while the number of directly elected representatives has fallen from 35 to 20, meaning less than a quarter of the legislature can be elected from the previous 50 percent. Under the new rules, the 40 members of parliament will be elected by a 1,500-member electoral commission filled with people loyal to Beijing, which will also have the power to elect Hong Kong’s governor. The remaining 30 seats will come from the so-called functional districts, which will be elected by delegates loyal to Beijing, mostly from different interest groups (industries, trade unions, professions).

Under the new rules, a mechanism has been introduced under which only so-called “patriotic” candidates, that is, those committed to the Chinese leadership of Hong Kong, can stand for election and be examined by a special body set up for this purpose.

As a result of new electoral legislation and the National Security Act passed last June, which criminalized much of the opposition’s politicization, there is essentially no real opposition candidate in the election. Many pro-democracy politicians were imprisoned, others were disqualified from elections, and some fled Hong Kong. Although there are candidates who call themselves Democrats and independents, they do not represent the main opposition parties that did not run in the elections. A total of 153 candidates, named patriots by preliminary screening, competed for the 90 parliamentary seats. Within this, 35 people will apply for the 20 shortlisted places directly.

Opposition organizers in the primaries in prison

Referring to the National Security Act, police arrested more than 50 pro-democracy activists and candidates in January for pre-election elections of nearly 600,000 people last summer, long before the new election law was passed, with nearly 600,000 registered. The equivalent of about 15 percent of voters. Of those arrested, 47 were eventually charged with alleged “subversive” activity, the vast majority of whom are now awaiting trial.

At the time of the pre-election elections last summer, it was not yet conceivable that with a new election law, Beijing would make it entirely impossible for Hong Kong to run opposition politicians demanding the broadest possible democracy. Moreover, the primaries continued based on the belief that the parliamentary elections would be held in September 2020, but were postponed by the pro-Beijing ruler, due to the coronavirus epidemic, two weeks after the primaries. Voices critical of the Hong Kong government, such as the Wall Street Journal in November editorial article In fact, the governor chose to postpone the elections because in the November 2019 municipal elections, where local councils are elected by the people, Hong Kong residents, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “humiliated” China by voting for a record A pro-democracy candidate. In the local elections, the pro-democracy forces scored a landslide victory after winning nearly 90 percent of the 452 seats with 71 percent. The local elections were also viewed by many as a referendum on the series of protests that continued into the months of 2019 and drew large crowds. Two years ago, locals took to the streets against a bill that would have allowed Hong Kong to be handed over to China. The draft was eventually withdrawn as a result of the protests.

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The last parliamentary elections were held in 2016, when pro-democracy forces won 19 of the 35 seats allocated through direct elections. Additionally, 10 functional constituency seats were won, giving them a total of 29 parliamentary seats, meaning they have a veto over the 70-member committee on key issues that require a two-thirds majority.

He also goes to prison for inciting an election boycott

By making it impossible for opposition candidates to run, voters in pro-democracy forces are more likely to express their political views by abstaining or casting invalid votes. So it is no wonder that the Hong Kong government is actively encouraging participation in the elections. Indeed, the relatively high turnout would prove no problem. To this end, separate polling stations will be set up at the border for Hong Kongers living in China, who are likely to be loyal to Beijing. The electoral law amendment also included imposing a prison sentence of up to three years on anyone who incites to boycott the vote, which is an invalid vote. This is the reason for the arrests in recent weeks.

Beijing’s commitment is not fulfilled

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule. At that time, Beijing’s leadership promised that the city-state, organized as a special administrative region within China, would retain its former capitalist economic system, partially democratic social system and a high degree of autonomy for 50 years under “One”. A country, two systems’ principle. However, for years it has resisted the Hong Kong Democratic Forces’ demand for local citizens to be able to directly elect the city-state’s governor. British According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs China further undermined international confidence in it by amending the election law, which it considered “the last step towards closing spaces for democratic debate.”

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London is waiting for fugitives from Hong Kong

According to the British government, the National Security Act, which can be used against all kinds of dissent, a free press and civil society, violates the 1997 treaty between Britain and China regarding the surrender of Hong Kong. However, London has limited opportunities to implement the promised Chinese commitments to Hong Kong. The imposition of economic sanctions on China would almost certainly lead to retaliation by China against British companies. Instead, the British government has opted for a less provocative solution in response to Chinese rule, which is increasingly putting pressure on Hong Kong. At the end of January, it launched a program to allow British National Overseas (BNOs) who live in Hong Kong with British passports, to obtain a special visa to work and study in the UK. After five years, they can apply for permanent residence and British citizenship. To support the mechanism, the London government launched a £43 million program in April to help Hong Kong residents get housing, work and education.

In Hong Kong, 7.5 million, about 2.9 million people have BNO status, with a household of about 2.3 million. Anyone born before 1997, before Hong Kong was handed over to China, can retain this status. By the end of September, nearly 90,000 BNOs had Hong Kong status I applied for a special visa. The British government estimates that around 320,000 will apply for a BNO visa over the next five years. London had previously expected 123,000 to 153,000 Hong Kong residents to arrive in Britain this year.

International financial firms are expanding in Hong Kong

As tens of thousands of Hong Kongers plan to immigrate to Britain, global financial services firms in Hong Kong, one of the world’s largest financial centers, are expanding their local presence. Reuters I mentioned in the summer About the fact that many global banks and financial service providers said that they are increasing the number of their local employees. Citigroup, for example, is increasing its number of employees by 1,500, doubling its portfolio from last summer’s level. Goldman Sachs had plans to expand 20 percent, with HSBC Holdings employing 400 employees, while UBS employed 200 people in the fiscal year through March.

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More than a year after the passage of the national security law, Bloomberg wrote in July, investors do not appear to be fleeing Hong Kong. The summer report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) also seems to confirm this. Accordingly, Hong Kong ranks third in the global ranking of foreign direct investment (FDI) flows according to last year’s data. Compared to 2019, FDI inflows to Hong Kong increased by 61.7% to $119 billion last year. UNCTAD was launched this summer According to the report Hong Kong remains an important financial center due to its favorable tax system, lack of capital restrictions, good regulatory environment, and relatively easy listing process. Moreover, it can be said that based on the number of IPOs, the trading volume of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which remains one of the largest in the world, increased by almost 70% in the 12 months to June 2021.

Hong Kong: Gateway to China

From this it seems that Hong Kong’s unique position as a gateway to Western nations toward China, the world’s second-largest economy, is casting a shadow over fears that Beijing is increasingly controlling the city-state. Hong Kong, which links China to the rest of the world in terms of supply chains, was the world’s eighth-largest importer and sixth-largest exporter, according to data from last year.

Andrew Collier, Orient Capital Research Foundation According to the CEO It is not necessary to fully guarantee the rule of law in order for Hong Kong to remain an attractive location for global financial services and other businesses. The most important thing for them is that the local legal system ensures that their employment contracts are respected and adequately protected.

According to analysts China is failing to deliver on its promises to hand over Hong Kong and is increasingly dismantling the democratic framework because, according to the logic of the communist leadership, it cannot be weak.And for months, there should be massive demonstrations in Hong Kong against the Beijing regime, which aroused strong public interest.

Gabriel Wildau, US-based Teneo . consulting firm According to her analyst China wants to have full political control of Hong Kong and for the city-state to remain an important global financial center. This model appears to be working.

Cover image source: Getty Images

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