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Foreign firms relocating from Hong Kong over draconian Chinese law

Foreign firms relocating from Hong Kong over draconian Chinese law

The <em>New York Times</em> has moved a lot of its staff outside Hong Kong because of the fear of the National Security Law (NSL), and technology companies like Facebook and Google are refusing to comply with the data access requests by the Chinese government. Foreign companies in Hong Kong are seriously thinking of relocating due to the draconian NSL imposed by China on the international city, known for long as the Fragrant Harbor.

Talking at a discussion, ‘Under the Dragon’s Shadow,’ organized by <strong><a href="https://www.lokmaanya.com/">media portal Lokmaanya</a> </strong>and the Pune-based think tank <a href="https://ccasindia.org/"><strong>Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies</strong> </a>(CASS), Craig Choy, lawyer and ex-convener of Progressive Lawyers Group, Hong Kong, said that the confidence among companies is shaken and many are accessing the impact of the NSL on business and industry. Choy said: “Supporters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and some of the media are asking why big banks are not supporting the NSL. As a result, the management of HSBC and Standard Chartered issued statements to the media that they support the NSL. We can see that the companies in Hong Kong have no longer the right to be silent.”

Talking about the impact of the draconian NSL on domestic companies, he said that over the last one year, the supporters of democracy had formed the Yellow Economic Circle (YEC)—a group of shops and businesses supporting the pro-democracy protests. But after the passage of the law, a lot of these supporters have started withdrawing from the YEC as they are afraid of the government because providing support to democracy is now a violation of the law.

<img class="wp-image-12212 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/HongKongProtests.jpg" alt="" width="1000" height="734" /> Hong Kong residents carried out long-running protests against China for curbing freedom and democratic rights (Xinhua/IANS)

Choy said: “The NSL was implemented on June 30, 2020, but no one in Hong Kong had read the law before that. Everybody was in a state of shock on knowing how wide the law can be. It provides for four offences—secession, subversion, terrorism and collaborating with foreign country or external elements that endanger security of China.”

The activist and lawyer has advice for foreign companies, "They should pay more attention to the NSL and put in place internal policies and procedures to comply with it.”

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Choy adds that when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, the mood was different. “People had a lot of hope that this ‘one country two system’ theory would work. They were optimistic at that time that their lives would continue as before and they had lots of protection in the form of Human Rights legislation, the privacy law, discrimination laws and the bills of rights. The city was protected by international treaties and even China had maintained that Hong Kong would celebrate the 50-year anniversary. But now it seems that China has had a change of mind.”

He added that the only way to persuade China is for countries to ensure that it agrees to various international treaties. The support is coming from the European countries, the US, the UK, and India, Japan and Australia. Explaining why people dread the law, Choy said that it not only applies to Hong Kong residents but also to companies incorporated in Hong Kong, including subsidiaries. The NSL also applies to people who are not permanent residents of the city.

“We have come to know that two US citizens are wanted by the Police under the NSL,” Choy added.

<img class="wp-image-4475 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/TibetanProtest.jpg" alt="" width="900" height="601" /> Tibetans participate in a demonstration against the Chinese government, in Bengaluru on May 2, 2019 (IANS)

The discussion also centered around the state of Tibet where Chinese President Xi Jinping has introduced a series of religious policies. Tashi Choedon, Researcher, Tibet Policy Institute, highlighted how the CCP is curtailing the rights of nuns and monks in Tibet. She added that the effort of the CCP is to integrate all minority religions and groups into the larger Chinese state discourse.

Choedon said the CCP has introduced the four standards—rules for nuns and monks under which they have to maintain political stability in Tibet. “China’s policies can be seen in the most important buddhist academies, Larung Gar and Yachen Gar, in Tibet. These have been under strict scrutiny since 2001 when Jiang Zemin was the President in China. But since 2016, they have been evicting monks and nuns from Buddhist academies and demolishing their living areas."

Giving an overview on China, Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale (Retd), Director of CASS Pune, said the People’s Republic of China was established in October 1949, and within one year—October 1950—the country annexed Tibet and by June 1951 had established total control over the region. Through the BRI, China has expanded its territories by taking over other countries’ ports and real estate. “The countries are in dire straits as they pay back the high interests to China for their development. At that time China fought against colonization but today it is doing exactly the reverse of that.”.