HK bankers add to calls for democracy from Beijing

AP News
Posted: Apr 25, 2014 4:19 AM

HONG KONG (AP) — A group of Hong Kong finance industry professionals are pledging to join an Occupy-style movement to protest growing influence from Beijing that they say is undermining the Asian financial hub's economy.

The bankers, traders and stockbrokers who make up Hong Kong's financial-worker class are notoriously apolitical.

But the group led by hedge fund manager Edward Chin, which currently numbers about 70 people, added their voices to wider calls for full democracy in an open letter to China's President Xi Jinping published this week in several newspapers.

Worried that Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy is being eroded, they urged China's Communist leaders to stop interfering in the city's administrative affairs. They also expressed fears about growing threats to the city's freedom of speech and the press, rule of law and strong anti-corruption culture.

"The current political climate in Hong Kong is having a negative impact to Hong Kong's competitiveness as a major financial center in Asia," said the letter. "Hong Kong's existing political system has become the stumbling block to the city's long-term social, political and economic growth, and is the root cause of social division and disharmony in Hong Kong."

The group has joined forces with political activists planning acts of civil disobedience this summer, including occupying the city's financial district to press their demands for genuine universal suffrage.

Since Hong Kong ceased to be a British colony in 1997, its leader, known as the chief executive, has been chosen by an elite committee of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons while some lawmakers are elected by voters, with others picked by business groups. Beijing has promised the next crop of leaders will be chosen through universal suffrage starting in 2017. But it has stoked resentment by signaling that only candidates friendly to Beijing will be able to stand as chief executive.

Chin, 46, said he was indifferent to politics but became more active when he adopted a baby boy three years ago and started worrying about the kind of city his son would inherit.

"We don't want this city to die," he said. "There has been so much red influence in the system already in Hong Kong," he said in reference to Communists.

He said that Hong Kongers were increasingly losing out in the race for top jobs in the city's banking and finance industry to those with links to China's Communist Party elite.

Chin said that Hong Kong was becoming a destination for large money flows from China, some of which was suspected to be linked to corruption. And he said that a recent knife attack on the former editor of one of the city's most respected newspapers had intensified concerns about attempts to muzzle the media.