China requests personal information of foreign consulate staff in Hong Kong

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20th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) China’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong has officially asked consulates in the financial hub to provide personal information, including job titles, home addresses, and identification details, of all locally employed staff. The request was confirmed in a letter seen by Reuters, which was sent by the Hong Kong Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to foreign consulates on Monday.

In a statement to Reuters, the ministry stated that this measure is in line with international customary practice and emphasized that Chinese consulates stationed abroad also provide local employee information to the host countries based on their respective government requirements.

The letter, which sets a deadline of 18th October for compliance, highlights that under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, Beijing has authority over foreign affairs pertaining to the special administrative region. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Since the enforcement of a comprehensive national security law in 2020, Beijing has tightened its control over the densely populated city of 7 million people. The national security office in China wields significant investigative and surveillance powers under this law.

Referring to the “Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” the letter requests that consulates provide information on all locally engaged employees who have entered into employment contracts.

At the time of reporting, the European Union office, as well as the consulates of the United States and the United Kingdom, had not yet responded to requests for comment.

This development occurs as diplomats based in Hong Kong closely monitor the implementation of the stricter national security laws, which were introduced after the city experienced sometimes violent anti-government protests in 2019. While some Western governments have criticized these laws for limiting social and political freedoms in Hong Kong, Chinese and Hong Kong officials assert that they are crucial for restoring stability.