Hong Kong bankers are flocking to London to evade “disruptive” Chinese language safety legislation

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Hong Kong financial workers flock to London after the Chinese government decided to impose a controversial national security law on the region.

Real estate agents and recruiters in the UK capital have seen an increase in inquiries from Hong Kong-based financial workers since the security bill was announced last month.

Andrew Pringle, director of investment banking recruiter Circle Square, told Financial News, “Over the past year, some senior investment bankers in the UK had downsized jobs in Hong Kong over concerns over the city’s unrest. But in the past few weeks there have been a number of résumés from people in Hong Kong who are concerned about the escalating situation there and are trying to return to the UK. “

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that the UK will offer citizenship to nearly three million Hong Kong residents with British National Overseas (BNO) status. The announcement came on the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s surrender from British rule to China.

“We made it clear … that if China continued down this path, we would be introducing a new route for those involved [BNO] Status to live and work in the UK and then apply for citizenship. That’s exactly what we’re going to do now, “said Johnson.

Hong Kong financial workers have been keeping an eye on London’s housing market since political protests began in the region in March 2019, according to a report by real estate agent Aston Chase released this week.

“Interest has increased from Hong Kong residents who work in a variety of industries,” said Mark Pollack, co-founder and director of Aston Chase.

“Because of London’s reputation as a business hub, many inquiries and transactions in Hong Kong have come from people in the financial sector. With Hong Kong being a financial center in Asia and London being its European counterpart, there has long been a synergy between the two areas of the industry. “

CONTINUE READING: HSBC bankers and investors oppose an attitude in Hong Kong that is “anti-corporate”.

Meanwhile, Beauchamp Estates has seen a surge in demand from Hong Kong financial investors interested in buying property in areas such as Islington, Canary Wharf and on the outskirts of the City of London. Potential buyers range from those looking for two-bedroom apartments and new builds to those with more than £ 15m worth of trophy houses in their sights.

“Many of these buyers are investors in Hong Kong’s banking, finance and private family offices. The UK investments are part of a spread portfolio of investments,” said Jeremy Gee, general manager of Beauchamp Estates. “They often buy off-plan and in bulk to get a discount.”

Hong Kong and China buyers account for 15% of international buyer transactions with prices over £ 1m and 20% of deals over £ 10m, according to Beauchamp.

On Tuesday, China passed its “anti-protest” law targeting secession, subversion and terrorism with sentences ranging from life imprisonment. At the time of reporting, the Chinese government had arrested at least seven people and arrested more than 200 people for violating the new law.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the introduction of the new security law in Hong Kong was “a grave and deeply worrying move”.

READ HSBC and Standard Chartered popped for the Hong Kong stance

British banks like HSBC and Standard Chartered came under fire last month for supporting China’s security law.

Peter Wong, executive director of HSBC’s Asian activities, signed a petition in support of the laws that the bank announced on its official account on the Chinese social media website WeChat.

“We reaffirm that we respect and support laws and regulations that allow Hong Kong to restore and rebuild the economy while maintaining the principle of ‘one country two systems’,” the bank said. Meanwhile, Standard Chartered issued a statement that the new rules “can help maintain Hong Kong’s long-term economic and social stability”.

Nicky Morgan, former cultural secretary and chairman of the treasury committee, told Financial News in June that the banks’ decision to publicly support Chinese laws was a “worrying sign”.

“Certainly it is the freedoms that Hong Kong enjoyed that allowed banks like HSBC and Standard Chartered to thrive there,” she said.

Sir Vince Cable, former trade secretary and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the banks’ stance was “commercially driven”.

To contact the authors of this story with feedback or news, email Shruti Tripathi Chopra and Paul Clarke