Hong Kong Financier Calls for Democracy in Letter to China

Apr 22, 2014 10:32 pm ET

(Updates with details from letter in fifth paragraph.)

April 23 (Bloomberg) -- A former hedge-fund manager based in Hong Kong called for “genuine” universal suffrage in the former British colony in an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Edward Chin urged China to observe the high degree of autonomy promised to Hong Kong before its return to mainland control and refrain from interfering in the city’s administrative affairs. Chin said by e-mail that the letter, a copy of which was made available to Bloomberg News, had about 70 signatories including brokers, investment bankers and regulators that he declined to identify.

Hong Kong is gripped in a debate over how to elect its next leader, with opposition lawmakers pushing for full-fledged democracy in line with international standards, while China wants candidates to be vetted by a committee.

“The current political climate in Hong Kong is having a negative impact to Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a major financial center in Asia,” according to the letter, which outlines 10 requests to the Chinese Communist Party. The New York Times reported yesterday on the letter, which was published in the Financial Times today.

The letter printed in the FT, which also didn’t name any signatories, purported to represent “a group of finance and banking professionals who are passionate about the interests of Hong Kong.”

Stumbling Block

The letter in the FT contained links to the website and Facebook page of Occupy Central, a civic group started by an academic that has threatened protests in Hong Kong’s business district should democratic reforms not meet its demands. A five- month public consultation is due to end on May 3, with the government then expected to submit the proposals to Beijing for approval.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in a June interview he wants to deliver on the reforms, though increased democracy may lead to China’s refusal to appoint a leader elected by the city’s people. Allowing for a full exercise of democracy in Hong Kong would contrast with the political system in China, which has been ruled by the Communist Party since 1949.

“Hong Kong’s existing political system has become the stumbling block to the city’s long-term social, political and economic growth,” according to Chin’s letter. “We sincerely urge the leaders of the Central Government to consider these requests which reflect the voice of the Hong Kong people.”

Basic Law

China’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy granted Hong Kong its own legal system for 50 years under the Basic Law implemented after the U.K. returned the territory to China in 1997. The city allows residents civil liberties including a free press and freedom of assembly not permitted in the mainland.

Chin is a consultant with more than 20 years of finance experience, according to the website of MDE Hedge Center, a Hong Kong-based family office that focuses on social enterprise, real estate and alternative investment strategies. He is a former country head at Man Investments, the website shows.

--With assistance from Jonathan Browning in Hong Kong.