Hong Kong seeks Canadian firms, but rights group warns of hazards 2023

After crushing a pro-democracy protest movement, Hong Kong aims to recruit talent and industry by betting that Canadian and other international firms would put profit before politics.

This week’s Canadian newspaper pitch targets firms that want to “just get on with business” and “focus on their balance sheets,” according to a Toronto-based spokesperson.

Hong Kong government grants billions to foreign firms.

Since the 2020 national security law and government critic arrests, activists warn companies and people contemplating moving to Hong Kong of risks.

Hong Kong Watch co-founder Aileen Calverley that Canadian authorities alert firms of similar hazards.

“For tourists we get some warning if it’s not safe to travel there, so what about our businesses?” Calverley said. “It was free city, not anymore.”

The government’s quasi-diplomatic commercial offices in Toronto, Dubai, Beijing, London, New York, Tokyo, and Sydney run Hong Kong’s new Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises.

On June 5, the Toronto office advertised that Hong Kong sought “strategic” companies, “namely life and health technology, artificial intelligence and data science, financial technology and advanced manufacturing and new-energy technology.”

“Hong Kong is a leading international financial and trade centre, and regional innovation and technology hub, located right at the heart of Asia,” the ad states. “Under ‘one country, two systems’, Hong Kong remains a more free and open economy which provides businesses easy access to Mainland China and other key Asian markets.”

After the 2019 political crackdown, hundreds of young Hong Kongers have departed for Canada, Britain, and other countries with specialized immigration procedures.

Christopher Chen, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Toronto’s head of business and talent acquisition, said the office will help enterprises negotiate licenses, real estate, tax savings, and other services.

He dismissed the national security bill and dissident crackdowns as economic issues.

“The national security law is an anti-sedition law and very few people intentionally move to another country with the intention of engaging in seditious behaviour,” he continued.

“Canadian corporations we work with, including major banks, insurance companies, and technology companies, don’t necessarily participate in open political conversation with, for example, the mainland Chinese or Hong Kong governments and just get on with business.”A split.”

Chen compared the $5 billion government “co-investment” funds for firms moving to Hong Kong to sovereign wealth funds.

Campaigners warn of company and individual dangers since the security law passed.

Hong Kong Watch’s Canadian branch, launched in late May, contends Hong Kong’s Economic and Trade Offices shouldn’t get diplomatic privileges under a 1996 Canadian legislation since the People’s Republic of China maintains embassies and consulates in Canada.

Hong Kong wants Canadian companies to avert an “exodus.”

She cautioned Hong Kong firms risk money and staff. In retribution for the 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada, Chinese authorities imprisoned Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor for over 1,000 days.

Since Hong Kong politics “spiralled downhill,” Calverley has urged Canada to toughen its position on China.

In an email, Global Affairs Canada said it couldn’t comment on the Hong Kong plan, but International Trade Minister Mary Ng “has always been clear that we will support businesses wherever they choose to operate internationally.”

Global Affairs’ Hong Kong travel recommendation warns of “arbitrary enforcement of local laws” and internet surveillance for “material appearing to be seditious or that is critical of mainland China and local authorities.”

“You shouldn’t expect internet privacy,” the warning states, adding that journalists who criticize the Chinese government may be censored.

Hong Kong’s corporate pitch contradicts Canada’s travel advice.

Chen said Hong Kong “is ruled by law, not authority.”

“The assumption is that any Canadian entity that wants to expand its operations into Hong Kong or take a first foray is going to engage in activities that are conducive to its own commercial growth,” he added. “Business expansion is separate from politics and economics.”

June 10, 2023, the Canadian Press reported this.

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