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Hong Kong elite pressed to give up western passports

Beijing is urgent Hong Kong’s elite to surrender their western passports in an effort 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 signify Hong Kong at China’s prime decision-making physique to surrender passports or journey paperwork from nations together with the UK, in keeping with one new delegate, one former delegate and one other individual briefed on the choice course of.

Members of China’s Nationwide Individuals’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 “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. Vital 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 individuals mentioned. Whereas Beijing had beforehand mentioned that BNO holders had 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 surrender overseas passports comes after Beijing applied 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 Occasions that Beijing’s concern was “comprehensible as delegates had been working for probably the most essential” 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 may very well be a safety threat.

“China is dealing with growing 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 nations impose citizenship necessities on elected officers, the scenario presents a take a look at for Hong Kong’s globe-trotting elite, a lot of whom need to retain twin nationality.

After the 2019 protests, greater than 160,000 Hongkongers utilized for British citizenship, with at the very least 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 supplied to former Hong Kong residents.

CY Leung, a senior Chinese language official and Hong Kong’s former chief, informed 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 hand over overseas passports, [and] positively 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 training occasion final month, Leung mentioned these refusing to surrender their paperwork had been “making up nonsense excuses”.