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Hong Kong: an experiment under load

When Chinese agents removed a bookstore critic from Beijing and a politically linked tycoon from semi-autonomous Hong Kong, many foreign…

When Chinese agents removed a bookstore critic from Beijing and a politically linked tycoon from semi-autonomous Hong Kong, many foreign investors privately said they were Beijing towers, which inevitably would have problems with the authorities.

As the Hong Kong government put pressure on the city’s democratic guard, prosecutors, blocked opposition politicians from running in elections and banning a political party. Investors said local politics did not affect business.

Business leaders have looked elsewhere as Beijing has emphasized its “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong, which refers to self-control that marked the first years of the system “one country two systems” according to which China gave the city a “high degree of independence “and civil liberties for 50 years after the British left it back in 1

997.

Andy Chan and FT Victor Mallet at FCC in Hong Kong © AFP

However, the Hong Kong government decided to effectively eradicate Victor Mallet, Asia’s News Editor of the Financial Times, has finally pushed some representatives of the international business community to meet the growing threats to Hong Kong’s rule of law, the cornerstone of the city’s success as a global financial center.

“When problems arise, it becomes harder to sweep them under the carpet,” says Tara Joseph, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. “The free flow of data and information is crucial for this financial market’s reputation.”

The government declined to renew the Mall’s work visa – refusing to let him enter the city in November – after hosting a conversation at the City’s Foreign Correspondent Club by Andy Chan, a proponent of the city’s independence, whose National Party in Hong Kong thereafter was banned .

Charles Mok, a former IT executive representative of the Hong Kong Democratic Legislative Council, says investors have been shaken by the decision. “Earlier when I embarked on promoting investment, people asked me if they could earn money, but now they are asking themselves about freedom of expression and legal certainty,” he says.

Hong Kong is much less important to Beijing in terms of economic output than in 1997, with gross domestic product equivalent to only 3 percent of China, compared to almost one-fifth on delivery. But it is still a central financial center for foreign money to enter China and to the Chinese capital to go out.

Prodemocratic protesters keep photos of missing workers in Hong Kong © Reuters

With Hong Kong’s government under pressure from President Xi Jinping to oppose Beijing rule, lawyers say investors and government should be much more concerned about the erosion of Hong Kong freedoms and autonomy.

If Beijing’s influence continues to grow in the medium term, Hong Kong risks losing its preferential access to global markets, which is a prerequisite for the maintenance of the promised “high degree of autonomy”.

“The situation is very serious,” said Ho-fung Hung, professor of Chinese Political Economics at Johns Hopkins University, warning that Hong Kong risks being hurt by the deteriorating relations between China and China. “Western European governments can no longer pretend that Hong Kong has genuine autonomy from Beijing.”

Hong Kong’s Only Land Two System Arrangements, as dubbed by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, is a unique political Experiment to see if a city with many political liberties can survive and prosper in the world’s most powerful authoritarian State.

A political compromise between the United Kingdom and China, it is ridden with conflicts and contradictions.

The basic law of Hong Kong, the city’s mini-constitution, guarantees civil rights and legal independence, and obviously limits Beijing’s role to defense and foreign affairs. But it also requires the Hong Kong government to implement “directive” issued by Beijing, to adopt laws to ban “betrayal, parting, sedition and subversion” [which it has yet to do]giving Beijing the power to surpass Hong Kong’s judge by issuing “interpretations.”

Jasper Tsang, a former legislative chairman of the Council, said the arrangement was based on “mutual understanding” between the Chinese government and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong government is under pressure from President Xi Jinping at the center of fighting opposition to Beijing’s rule © AP

But Tsang, one of Beijing’s most prominent supporters in Hong Kong, claims that pragmatic consensus has fallen in recent years , when Beijing and Hong Kong have been locked in a “bad circle”.

“On the one hand, Hong Kong people seem to feel that the state is now sharpening its control, removing the maneuvering room given to Hong Kong ple during the first years after handing over,” he said. “On the other hand, Beijing seems to be more and more concerned about Hong Kong’s independence and the alienated hostile attitude of young people in Hong Kong to the state.”

Joshua Wong, a 22-year-old activist who was imprisoned for his part in the pro-democracy Occupy protests from 2014, claims that “as long as President Xi is leading China, there is no chance of democracy in Hong Kong.”

That feeling has pushed a growing number of young people to turn their backs on China. At the 2016 parliamentary elections, about one in five Hong Kongers voted for candidates who supported self-determination or independence. Opinion polls have shown support for independence tends to be stronger among young people.

This trend has caused China’s communist leadership, who sees separatism – whether in Tibet, Xinjiang or Hong Kong – as a fundamental threat to the party’s legitimacy. [19659002] On a rare visit last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the surrender, Xi warned Hong Kongers not to cross a “red line” by “jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security” or “challenging state power.”

“We are under great pressure from Beijing,” said a Hong Kong government official. “If we can not show that we are addressing the issue of independence, the pressure on Hong Kong continues to increase.”

Philip Dykes, chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, the city’s supervisory body for barristers, rescues the rule of law to begin to be a victim of this political demolition. He claims that Xis “red line” is a vague, catch-all term that can be used arbitrarily against dissenters. “You’ll know when you’ve crossed it, even if you can not see it,” he says.

The media and business were caught by the unprecedented decision with Mallet, the first time a foreign journalist has been denied a visa since the handover.

Jasper Tsang, one of Beijing’s most prominent supporters in Hong Kong, claims that pragmatic consensus has fallen in recent years when Beijing and Hong Kong have been locked in a “vicious circle” © AFP

The activists say that The incident is a less serious shame on Hong Kong’s record than the abduction of the bookshop Lee Bo, who disappeared 2015 and tycoon Xiao Jianhua, who was taken from a Hong Kong hotel in 2017 and believed to be in Shanghai. Nor is it so burdensome that they say that Hong Kong’s government uses vague colonial laws and creative administrative measures to weaken democratic surveillance.

But Western diplomats say they were disturbed by the Mallet being expelled because of the fooled nature of the decision and the use of a repressive tool straight out of Beijing’s playbook, suggesting that Hong Kong slowly becomes like any other Chinese city.

The Hong Kong government has refused to justify ruling out the Mallet in practice, even though pro-Beijing politicians and Chinese state media have linked the decision to his host for China’s speech. He led the event in August as acting president of the FCC, which has a long history of discussing with political figures, including senior Hong Kong and Chinese officials.

In an “increased pressure” climate on a country, two systems, Mark Field, the UK’s Asia Minister, warns that incidents such as the Visa Denial of Mallet “will affect business confidence in Hong Kong”.

Analysts at investment banks in Hong Kong are already unwilling to criticize the Chinese government or Chinese state-owned companies for fear of government retaliation, according to a global director of research.

These concerns about freedom of expression have caused deeper fears about the “mainland”, as opposition politicians call it.

Joshua Wong, a 22-year student activist who was imprisoned for his part in the pro democracy Occupy protests from 2014, claims that “as long as President Xi is leading China, there is no chance of democracy in Hong Kong © Reuters

Legal experts are especially uncomfortable by Beijing’s willingness to use its constitutional power to surpass Hong Kong’s independent legal system. In a case in 2016, Beijing demanded the removal of Legislative Councils who believed to be Troika and last year declared that part of a new high-speed railway station in the heart of Hong Kong was the mainland that would guarded by Chinese law enforcement. [19659002] “It is the symbol of a rule of law to have regulations from a dictatorship infiltrating our legal system,” said Mark Daly, a human rights advocate defending Chan in his appeal against the ban on HNNP. “There is no self-control of Beijing. “

Eric Cheung, a law teacher v ID Hong Kong University, gives it stronger. “We move from the rule of law to law by law,” he says. “Now what Beijing says is the law.”

Priscilla Leung, a pro-Beijing Legislative Council and a Barrister, dismisses this criticism and argues that democracy activists try to transform the rule of law into a “slogan” to “fight for their political goals.”

She says there are followers of Occupy and those who demand independence from China that undermine political stability. “The rule of law is the spirit of following the law, respecting the law and maintaining the supremacy of the law,” she adds.

Her comments echo Beijing and Hong Kong officials who have rejected the criticisms of criticism, including former reticent international business chambers in Hong Kong and foreign governments.

The Hong Kong Ministry of Justice said that “it is misunderstood to believe that the maintenance of national unity and territorial integrity is contrary to the rule of law.” Add that, “the rule of law is involved in our daily lives … in the way the business is carried out.”

Some companies continue to believe that they may enjoy the press from Beijing. “I’m not so fond of the growing mainland influence but there’s not much we can do about it,” says an executive at a Hong Kong congress. “We still see many opportunities in Hong Kong, regardless of politics.”

But others urge the government to reverse the course before it’s too late.

“We’re not at the point where people go out,” says Joseph from the American Chamber of Commerce. “What would it take? It may make people feel that their data is being taken or reviewed, or a feeling that there is not a level playing field for Western vs Mainland companies.”

In a recent talk, senior senior Robert Robert warned For the broader battle ahead, the public urges the defendant to defend the rule of law so that “it can not easily be taken from us.”

“Make your voice heard and your voice counts,” he urged Hong Kong’s. “Believe me, the price of freedom is truly eternal vigilance.”

Further Reporting by Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong

Free Press: The Beijing Critical Room Shrinks, Alerts Journalists

Although many Hong Kong media stores are being controlled by tycoons with Chinese business interests including the alibaba-owned South China Morning Post, local journalists have long chafed against any restrictions.

But resistance is getting harder, as authorities move from a co-operation strategy Francis Lee, a journalist professor at Hong Kong’s Chinese University, said “the basic game changes,” with the city and Beijing “no longer so scared.” of direct intervention. “

He quotes a new meeting in Beijing where the Communist Party’s propaganda chief warned a Hong Kong editors delegation not to allow foreign forces to turn the city into a base for subversion of the mainland.

Hong Kong journalists say they often under pressure from editors to release stories that would interfere with Beijing or simply refrain from throwing them in the first place.

In the art world, there has been an increasing number of incidents where organizers who are afraid to regret the authorities have interrupted

The Hong Kong Journalist Association warned last month about the “death button” for freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

“Freedom, Publication and Pressure are Key Factors for Hong Kong’s Success” , he said in a statement. “About voices critical of Beijing politics can not tole Rises today, who will say when a report that predicts a devaluation of [the] Renminbi will be lost? “

Some analysts say Beijing wants Hong Kong to mimic Singapore where talks and the media are closely controlled, but business is practicing.

But Mark Clifford, Executive Director of Asia’s Nutrition Council, a tanker in Hong Kong, claims that, unlike Singapore, freedom of speech and a lively media essence has been crucial to Hong Kong’s prosperity over the years.

“Hong Kong has a tradition of freedom,” he says. “We are different. It has always been a very political city.”

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