23 January 2019
There is an urgent need for Hong Kong to enforce the UN sanctions against North Korea. Photo: HKEJ
There is an urgent need for Hong Kong to enforce the UN sanctions against North Korea. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong should join UN sanctions against North Korea promptly

In response to North Korea’s announcement of its resumption of nuclear tests on Sept. 3, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2375 on Sept. 11 to impose stricter economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

Under the UN resolution, all UN member states are barred from importing textiles from North Korea. Also, the resolution requires member states to freeze Pyongyang’s official assets and impose restrictions on the employment of North Korean migrant workers.

Immediately after the resolution was passed, countries across the world began to carry out the UN sanctions accordingly.

China’s Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration for Industry & Commerce jointly demanded on Sept. 28 that all Sino-foreign joint business ventures, Sino-foreign joint cooperative ventures and all foreign businesses that involved North Korean entities or individuals be shut down within 120 days from the day when the latest Security Council resolution was passed.

Even Taiwan, which is not an official UN member, announced on Sept. 12 that it would impose its own embargo on North Korea in compliance with the UN resolution.

In contrast, Hong Kong, a leading international trade and financial hub which is entitled to a substantial degree of autonomy on external affairs under the Basic Law, so far hasn’t announced any detailed arrangement on how to carry out the UN sanctions against North Korea.

Nor did our government demonstrate any commitment to bearing international responsibilities over this critical issue.

To address that, I brought up the matter at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s subcommittee on Hong Kong’s implementation of UN sanctions last month, and asked officials of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau if they had any timetable for enacting the UN resolution against North Korea.

Their answer was that enacting all the four UN resolutions against Pyongyang and legislating for each and every one of them locally would involve a lot of complicated work.

In order to answer calls from the international community for enforcement of UN sanctions against North Korea, there is an urgent need for our government to expedite the enactment process.

Apart from that, according to local and international media reports, a company registered in Hong Kong has allegedly violated UN sanctions by helping North Korea to raise foreign funds.

The report has raised widespread concern over whether Pyongyang could be raising capital illegally on the international financial market through its shell companies established in our city.

The media also reported that another shell company in Hong Kong that owns several freighters could possibly be controlled by Pyongyang. This could be in violation of the UN resolution passed in March last year to require member states to ban the registration of North Korea’s ships.

Hong Kong might not have any significant role to play when it comes to diplomatic relations. However, the latest UN resolution against North Korea is not entirely a political or a diplomatic decision. Rather, the resolution itself has profound implications for the world economy and the compliance and regulatory regime over the global financial market.

The fact that secret business dealings allegedly sponsored by North Korea in Hong Kong have come to light one after another indicates that these are hardly isolated incidents.

Given that, apart from enacting the UN resolution promptly, our law enforcement agencies must also launch a full-scale investigation into these alleged business dealings and follow all the facts wherever they lead on Pyongyang’s secret or illegal activities in the city.

It would definitely take an irreversible toll on Hong Kong’s reputation as a global financial center if our government failed to prevent violations of UN sanctions from taking place on our soil.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 8

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Member of Legislative Council (Functional Constituency – Accountancy)

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