HK firms run political loyalty checks on job seekers

December 08, 2015 14:49
Some Hong Kong firms are turning the job interview into a political loyalty check on young job seekers. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong youth played a leading role in last year's Occupy protests to seek genuine universal suffrage in the territory, but their hopes have been dashed by central authorities who insist on limiting the people's right to choose their leaders.

Frustrated, these youngsters may be facing another hurdle in their goal of securing a better future as some employers have devised an ingenious political test before hiring them.

According to a recent column by Tammy Tam, who is set to take over as editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post next month, several Hong Kong-based enterprises have arranged job interviews in Shenzhen in a bid to test job seekers' willingness to work in the mainland.

The scheme also serves another purpose: to determine whether the applicants can cross the border without encountering any immigration issues.

In effect, Hong Kong youngsters are put to a test not only to gauge their abilities and fitness for the jobs being offered, but also to determine their political leanings from Beijing's perspective.

This is tantamount to a political loyalty test that some local companies are running on our fresh graduates and young workers.

It has become a new requirement that will only further frustrate those who have fought for Hong Kong's autonomy under the "one country, two systems" policy.

Young people are being made to pay for standing up for their principles.

It is quite troubling if our companies set political loyalty as one of their key criteria in selecting new staff.

The human resources department, which oversees the recruitment process, turns into a virtual Communist Party committee within the company, rewarding those who are loyal to Beijing and denying employment to those whom Beijing finds "undesirable".

The scheme tests whether Hong Kong job seekers are not only willing to work across the border but are also allowed to do so by mainland authorities.

The requirement is important for Hong Kong companies doing business in China, especially in light of the closer economic relations between the mainland and the territory.

But it also rides roughshod over the human rights of applicants because their employment becomes contingent to their political beliefs. 

The arrangement for a Shenzhen job interview may look regular and innocuous, but it implies that the company won't hire candidates who are blacklisted by the Chinese government.

Of course, job applicants won't know their status until they pass the immigration checkpoint at the border.

That's precisely the reason why some Hong Kong companies arrange for the job interviews to be held in Shenzhen.

Authorities have harped on the "one country, two systems" as the overriding principle guiding Beijing's rule over Hong Kong since 1997.

But the part about "two systems" is becoming increasingly nebulous as Beijing continues to assert its authority over the territory.

Hong Kong people -- from students to journalists and politicians -- must not touch the political red line, otherwise they will suffer the consequences.

That's what this Shenzhen job interview arrangement is telling our young people.

And the central authorities' blacklist is getting longer, especially in the wake of the heightening political tension between Hong Kong and Beijing.

Even low-profile activists belonging to some local radical groups and journalists working for independent media firms have found their names on the blacklist.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has not voiced any concern over the blacklist, and noted that Beijing has every right to decide who to allow to enter the country.

But Article 31 of the Basic Law grants Hong Kong residents freedom of movement within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and freedom of emigration to other countries and regions.

They shall have freedom to travel, to enter or leave the territory.

Using such a blacklist clearly violates the Basic Law, but, of course, the final interpretation of its provisions lies in Beijing's hands.

From the company's perspective, they have the right to determine who to hire and who is best fitted to contribute to the company's development.

The Shenzhen interview may be considered a business decision, but such an arrangement may also challenge the individual freedoms of Hong Kong people.

Under Article 27 of the Basic Law, "Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike."

However, in the wake of the job interview scheme, it would seem the Basic Law protects Hong Kong people's individual rights only as long as Beijing's interests are not threatened.

As China seeks to tighten its grip on the territory, Hong Kong people are distancing themselves from Beijing all the more.

Hong Kong youth feel that Beijing wants to destroy the city's uniqueness and aims to turn it into another Chinese city. 

And now the employers' latest move is putting more pressure on youngsters to abandon their pursuit of political rights in exchange for economic gains.

But is that the best way to gain the support of the youth?

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EJ Insight writer