UK and foreign businesses concerned about governance in Hong Kong

British consul general voices the foreign commercial sector's concerns that the city's political developments may affect its economy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 11:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 May, 2014, 2:53am

The international business community in Hong Kong is deeply concerned about the city's electoral reform and governance issues, the British consul general in Hong Kong says.

Caroline Wilson also noted the considerable lack of debate over the nominating committee's composition, which could be negotiated with Beijing in the ongoing discussion on how to elect Hong Kong's chief executive via universal suffrage in 2017.

Britain's top diplomat in the city was speaking yesterday during a breakfast meeting with five pan-democratic lawmakers.

One lawmaker, Kenneth Leung of the accountancy sector, quoted Wilson as saying that the foreign business community was watching Hong Kong's electoral reform very closely.

"She said the international business community was very concerned about Hong Kong's constitutional development," Leung said after the meeting.

"Politics and the economy cannot be split, and they are concerned why it appears many bills in Hong Kong cannot get through [the Legislative Council].

"The businesses see a legitimacy problem, which leads to governance issues. They think it is necessary to boost the legitimacy [of future governments]."

The hour-long meeting at Wilson's Mid-Levels residence at the Opus was attended by the Civic Party's Alan Leong Kah-kit and Ronny Tong Ka-wah, Democrat Sin Chung-kai and IT-sector lawmaker Charles Mok.

On electoral reform, Wilson said little light had been shed on the composition of the nominating committee, which is supposed to be the only body empowered to put forward chief executive candidates in 2017.

"She is concerned why we have had little debate over the composition of the nominating committee," Tong said.

The consul general thought the committee's composition "was a negotiable issue with Beijing", said Leong.

But despite some pan-democrats' pessimism over reaching a deal with Beijing on electoral reform, Wilson seemed optimistic.

"She thinks there is room for discussion with Beijing, based on her encounters with central government officials," Leung said.

Wilson met foreign ministry commissioner Song Zhe on Thursday. "[We] agreed on the paramount importance of 2017 for Hong Kong," she posted on social networking site Twitter.

In response to an inquiry from the South China Morning Post, a British consulate spokeswoman said: "[Britain] has many ties to Hong Kong … as well as obligations as a signatory of the Sino-British Join Declaration … It is vital to us that Hong Kong continues to prosper.

"We believe a transition to universal suffrage that meets [Hongkongers'] aspirations … is the best way to preserve Hong Kong's strengths."

Sin said the group also discussed Occupy Central's unofficial "referendum" next month. "I told her I expected [the turnout] to be about 100,000 to 200,000."

Occupy Central's civil referendum will be held from June 20 to 22, when eligible voters are invited to pick a reform proposal from three that were shortlisted earlier this month. The civil-disobedience movement will promote the winning proposal.