Canadian envoy calls on Beijing to guard Hong Kong’s rule of law

The need to maintain reputation of city seen as vitally important at a time of ‘major political challenges’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 12:15am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 3:06am

It is of vital importance for Beijing to maintain the reputation of Hong Kong’s rule of law at a time of “major political challenges”, Canada’s envoy to the city said.

Jeff Nankivell, consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, also called on those shouting slogans against any particular nation to have better understanding – a ­reference to anti-China remarks by newly elected localist lawmakers in recent weeks.

Nankivell, who was based in Beijing for a decade, began his Hong Kong stint in August, shortly before Prime Minister Justin ­Trudeau visited the city as part of his China tour.

“I think for central authorities of the People’s Republic of China, it will be important to continue to recognise [and] maintain the ­spirit of ‘one country, two ­systems’ and to continue to recognise how important it is for Hong Kong’s prosperity and, connected with that, for China’s prosperity,” he told the Post.

Nankivell said China should continue to recognise “how ­important it is to maintain the reputation of the rule of law in Hong Kong”, as the court system inspires the confidence investors have in the city.

“That remains an advantage for Hong Kong – but it’s not an ­advantage that anyone should take for granted,” he said.

“We continue to pay attention to the integrity of the institutions under ‘one country, two systems’ ... like the court system.”

Asked about the political instability facing Hong Kong, Nankivell said businesses would still focus on the long-term potentials of the city, but conceded that “there is no question there are some major political challenges today”.

He said: “Everybody sees there are big divisions in society. Clearly, different communities are going to need to find a way ­forward [and] work together.”

On the chanting of anti-China slogans by lawmakers when ­taking the oath in the legislature, Nankivell said: “I don’t like to see anybody shouting slogans against a country or nation.

“So I would agree – where there’s a lack of understanding – one hopes that people can get ­better understanding. Definitely.”

The eight-day visit by Trudeau to the mainland and Hong Kong in August saw a “resetting of the tone of the relationship”, he said. “It is easier to have direct conversations about issues of human rights.”

Separately, with Canadian immigration authorities to formally put in place electronic travel authorisation on November 10, Nankivell said dual Canadian and Hong Kong citizens must obtain the appropriate travel documents before booking flights.

They would no longer be able to use only their Hong Kong passports to enter Canada, he added.

For Nankivell, his latest ­posting marks a return to the city where he spent a year learning ­Putonghua in 1990.

He said one of his many top priority tasks would be to learn Cantonese.