HK: The Way Forward without the Misinformation

Painting a true picture

Most people outside of what used to be known as the Pearl River Delta (PRD), now expanded to be the Greater Bay Area, or GBA, even many people inside of China have never heard of these three places: Qianhai; Hengqin and Nansha but first of all, a little history and geography: why the change from PRD to GBA?

This was partly because the influence of both HK and Macao, as well as the business opportunities they bring to China, expanded to more cities in the region; cities which were not along the banks of the Pearl River. There are now nine cities in the Greater Bay Area as opposed to the six that sit along the banks of the Pearl River. They are Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing and of course the GBA also includes the two Special Administrative regions (SARs) Hong Kong and Macao.

If you live in the GBA, and unless you’re living under a rock, you can’t help but know about Qianhai, Hengqin and Nansha.

Qianhai is part of Shenzhen and Hengqin is part of Zhuhai. For non-locals, Shenzhen is the mainland city adjoining Hong Kong and Zhuhai is connected to Macao. Another thing many people don’t know is that Macao isn’t an island, it’s a peninsula, you can take a ferry to get there but, if you want, you can walk across the border from Gongbei in Zhuhai.

Hong Kong, as all the world’s media, including China’s, has been reminding us, returned to China 25 years ago, and there’s a policy called “One Country Two Systems”. If you read anything about this in Western media, you can be forgiven for believing that China is constantly interfering, but you’d be very wrong.

Like everywhere that has a proper rule of law, HK has adhered to the system its parent country implements. Unlike people in Canada, Australia and New Zealand who swear allegiance to a queen who is thousands of miles away, the people of HK swear allegiance to the country they’re connected to. Connected geographically, historically, culturally, politically and very much economically. You can not represent HK unless you accept this fundamental principle.

But there are still concerns: concerns that China is “taking over”. Concerns that China isn’t going to wait the full 50 years before implementing its “authoritarian rule”. Concerns that National Security Law is a Chinese plot to take control of and undermine any form of democracy that the Hong Kongers have fought for and deserve.

Rubbish! And here’s why, first of all, the geographic, educational and economic reasons:

Both Qianhai and Hengqin are in Special Economic Zones but both of these two areas inside the cities have been re-designated as Cooperation Zones. Nansha is part of Guangzhou and is right up at the top of what used to be known as the Pearl River Delta.

What’s so special about these three areas? Well, special tax rules apply, special concessions are in place to attract entrepreneurs and business people. There are also unique legal arrangements for companies to blend the laws of China and HK and therefore operate in both regions. There are also finance arrangements so international transactions are easily managed.

Effectively what’s happening is this: these three regions are allowed to operate almost as if they are in the SARs, under those laws and international working conditions whilst doing business on, and very importantly, in the mainland.

Universities from Hong Kong are opening up mainland campuses and making huge investments, too. This means that HK students and mainland students will work together developing future products, services and becoming the talent needed for the future.

Imagine being able to operate an international company inside China and use all the appropriate international laws, international banking with the modern infrastructure and workforce of the mainland, under the conditions of a Hong Kong or Macao business — once you imagine that, you’ll realise how important these three regions are; but it doesn’t stop there.

According to HK Trade Development Centre’s survey last year, there were problems and obstacles, with the biggest barrier being the differing institutional systems — well, the three regions we’ve talked about have all overcome that and the obstacles have been removed.

Furthermore, every city in the GBA has favourable policies to attract talent from the SARs. In coming years, university graduates won’t be graduating in HK and looking for work in the SARs, many of them will be on the mainland, in world class universities and have all the benefits of an international education coupled with a massive economy and infrastructure in which to search for work, or start their own business.

All reports are that the numbers of SAR business in the GBA are increasing, and doing so rapidly — graduates and highly skilled or talented young people are encouraged to come to the GBA, lured by financial incentives, much better costs of living, a much larger target market, better infrastructure and a huge, highly skilled workforce combined with lower tax and bureaucratic burdens.

What it really means is that China isn’t taking over Hong Kong, Hong’s Kong skilled, talented and ambitious youth as well as Hong Kong’s entrepreneurs and business leaders are looking to the GBA as a place they can call their own. In fact, no one is taking over anywhere, a huge movement of people who live and work in an expanded region that shares similar culture, the same language and shared business systems with much better working and living conditions will find themselves sitting side by side — it won’t be long before people can’t tell which side of the border they’re on.

That takes care of the “China’s taking over” issue but what about the legal situation. Quite rightfully, people who read the news are concerned, particularly for the citizens of Hong Kong who seem to be having their democratic rights eroded. Their concerns are amplified by misleading media and ill-informed opinions.

Let’s shed a little light on the National Security Laws which seem to have got people very riled up.

Most people in Hong Kong know Grenville Cross: He’s a British barrister who became the Director of Public prosecutions for HK in 1997. Educated in the UK and long-time resident of HK with a VERY strong legal background. He’s also a Senator in an association called the International Association of Prosecutors.

People will inevitably disagree with articles written in support of China’s position on Hong Kong. They may suggest the information is wrong and disparage the writer, insult the publication or criticise the message but the fact of the matter is, unless you are a barrister and have over 50 years of experience dealing with legal matters in Hong Kong and other international arenas, you’re going to be hard pressed to win an argument against Mr. Cross

You’d expect this man to know what’s what in terms of the legalities of HK and he does. So much so that he recently wrote an open letter to Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. In his letter, he described several things: one was that Beijing has kept its cool and left matters of Regional security to the Hong Kong authorities. Another important fact he refers to was that under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the region was supposed to come up with its own National Security Laws — they didn’t and it is for this reason that China, quite legitimately, needed to.

He also clearly points out that despite the promise of a “high degree of autonomy” there was a specific exemption for matters of national defense and, if foreign interference and funding of anti-government movements in the Region isn’t a matter of national defence, what is?

Hong Kong’s Basic Law was written a long time ago, both the Chinese and British governments agreed in the Joint Declaration of 1984 that this would be the best way forward but much of that seems to have been forgotten, it’s a good time as we enter the second half of the 50 year period to remind readers of some very important facts from Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

Article 12 states that the Region will have high autonomy but will come directly under the Central People’s Government — this means clearly that, although they can make their own laws, they are quite definitely part of China

Remember the furore in Western media when China opened an office of foreign affairs and everyone was calling it the “National Security Office? Here it is, agreed to in article 13 of the Basic Law and being called what it really is an office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is no “National Security Office” that name is a construct by western media. The address is 52 Kennedy Road and, if you want to take a look, you can — it’s never been called a National Security Office outside of western media reports.

Article 14 is even more clear: the Central Government is responsible for the defence of Hong Kong and will post a military garrison there. A garrison which may be called out in the event of public order and in the case of disaster relief. Once again, there’s an important point here that Western media neglected to mention — the military can be called out in times of need — but they weren’t, unlike when the British managed the region and called the military several times resulting in many deaths.

We even had a wave of anti-China sentiment when the new Chief Executive John Lee was recently elected unopposed a couple of months ago but here’s Article 15 stating clearly that China has the right to appoint a Chief Executive.

And the big one is Article 23; this is the one many people in the west have wrongly been led to believe China has overturned. From handover in 1997, Hong Kong has had a requirement to enact its own Security laws to prevent treason, secession, sedition, or subversion against… wait for it: not Hong Kong itself but the Central People’s Government, which legitimately governs the Region.

This law should have prevented establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies yet, in 2019, we could clearly see that such laws had not been enacted and we saw images all over the news of foreign interference in China’s internal affairs, we saw foreign influenced riots and we saw massive civil disorder egged on by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz and, it’s now known, paid for by America’s National Endowment for Democracy and other American NGOs.

It’s very hard to disagree that every country or region of the world must have its own National Security Laws and it was always agreed that Hong Kong, even under the original Joint Declaration in 1984, would be protected in terms of defence by the People’s Republic of China.

If you walk around HK now, you see a place at peace, a place recovering from past problems, some of which revert back over a generation when Britain was still in charge. You’ll also notice a city in remarkable state of economic strength and local governance, a positively increasing economy and Number 2 on the World’s Economic Freedom Index with a constantly increasing amount of Foreign Direct Investment finding its way into the Region and very strong prospects for improvement after a difficult 2 year period with both the 2019 disruptions and Covid.

Instead of focusing on sensational and misleading headlines, instead of listening to ill-informed politicians and media personalities; instead of accepting at face value anything we see or hear from people and organisations with a past history of misinformation, we ought to be a little wiser and look at the legalities involved, consider reading the legal position, understanding the responsibilities of all parties and look to trained and qualified informants.

Only when we do that, will we know the truth and, once we do that, we’ll know the truth isn’t what we’re constantly being told. In fact, the truth paints a very different picture to the knowledge most of us hold.

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Jerry Grey

Jerry Grey

I’m British born Australian living in Guangdong and have an MA in Cross Cultural Change Management. I write mostly positively about my China experiences