Chinese minister Wang Yi tells Hong Kong firms to lend more support to Carrie Lam government

Police fire tear gas during a protest in Tsuen Wan district of Hong Kong on Aug 25, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a Hong Kong business delegation that more support should be given to the city's government to end violence that has evolved into the biggest crisis it has faced since the return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong has been engulfed in angry and sometimes violent protests against the government for three months, sparked by a now-suspended extradition Bill and concerns that Beijing was trying to bring the territory under greater mainland control.

Police fired water cannon and tear gas at anti-government protesters on Sunday, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam later warned that the authorities would be forced to stamp down on the escalating violence.

The China Daily warned in an editorial that the gap between the government and protesters appeared to be "unbridgeable", with the administration not able to "swallow the pills the demonstrators prescribe".

However, Mr Wang said in Beijing on Tuesday that, while Hong Kong was facing its most serious challenge since the handover, it was capable of overcoming its problems with the support of the government and the unity of Hong Kong residents.

According to a notice on China's official government website, Mr Wang said business groups should also play a positive role by helping young people take part in the city's economic development.

Interest from Hong Kong residents in leaving the city has surged since the protests. About 200 people attended a seminar in July organised by InvestUK, which helps people secure investor visas to move to Britain from Hong Kong, up from about 40 people usually, said the firm's chairman Rupert Gather.

Applications for Hong Kong good citizenship cards also rose almost 50 per cent in the first two weeks of this month from a year earlier, in a sign that residents may be more seriously contemplating an exit. The good citizenship documents certify a person does not have a criminal record and are needed to apply for foreign visas or residency in another country.

Mr Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of real estate site, said: "This is evidence that many Hong Kongers are seeking to move overseas, or at least obtain residency overseas so that they have the option to go.

"While the data doesn't show for sure that people are applying for these police checks for their foreign visa applications, it is relatively rare to seek these documents for any other purpose."

The number of British visas granted to Hong Kong nationals qualifying as investors and entrepreneurs more than doubled in the second quarter from a year earlier, showed government data. That outpaced an overall 55 per cent rise in these so-called Tier 1 visas, according to the figures from Britain's Interior Ministry.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline Chinese minister Wang Yi tells Hong Kong firms to lend more support to Carrie Lam government. Subscribe