China requests consulates in Hong Kong to provide data of local staff

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China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong has requested consulates in the financial hub to provide job titles, home addresses and identification details of all locally employed staff, according to a copy of the letter seen by Reuters and local media reports.

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In a letter seen by Reuters, The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry wrote that consulates must comply with the request by Oct 18th.

Under Hong Kong’s mini constitution, Beijing is in charge of foreign affairs relating to the special administrative region. The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing has ratcheted up control over the densely packed city of 7 million people since a sweeping national security law imposed in 2020. China’s national security office has extensive investigative and surveillance powers under the law.

In line with the “Vienna Convention on Consular relations, the Consulates General and the Office of the European Union...are requested to provide information on all locally engaged who have entered into employment contract,” the letter said.

The letter was sent to all consulates according to media outlets Hong Kong Free Press and local Ming Pao newspaper.

It was not immediately clear what the current protocol is for Chinese consulates operating in foreign jurisdictions. China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The European Union office, the US and British consulates did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The move comes as some Hong Kong based diplomats closely follow the implementation of tighter national security laws that Beijing imposed in 2020 after sometimes violent anti-government protests rocked the city in 2019.

While some Western governments have criticized the laws as curbing social and political freedoms in the city, both Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said they were vital to restore stability.

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