HK must step up efforts at enforcing UN sanctions

January 08, 2019 18:17
Hong Kong is under obligation to carry out all sanctions imposed on any region or country by the UN Security Council in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Photo: Bloomberg

Recently, Hong Kong has again become the focus of international attention.

A mainland enterprise was suspected of violating US sanctions against Iran in December 2018 by pursuing business deals with the latter through a Hong Kong-registered company.

That a private enterprise was once again caught red-handed using a shell company in Hong Kong to commit wrongdoings, such as hiding assets, tax avoidance or bypassing international sanctions against a particular country, would undoubtedly deal a heavy blow to our city’s reputation as a transparent and separate customs area.

Between Dec. 5 and 7, a high-level delegation representing the US State Department and Department of Commerce visited Hong Kong and met with representatives of the SAR government.

According to a subsequent press release published by the delegation, the US government has suggested that the SAR administration step up efforts at enforcing international sanctions, particularly those against illicit shipping activities carried out by Iran and North Korea that are in violation of UN resolutions.

The press release also said that Washington has urged Hong Kong to enhance regulation of its re-exportation so as to prevent controlled materials from ending up in the hands of unauthorized military users.

Some people may interpret the meeting between the US and Hong Kong officials last month as a means through which Washington was trying to put pressure on our city over the enforcement of international sanctions.

The fact is, bilateral exchanges of various forms between Hong Kong and the United States have been going for years.

That being said, I myself would be inclined to interpret the meeting last month positively as an initiative made by the United States to express its expectations for our city in fulfilling international responsibilities.

Earlier, I met with the US Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau Kurt W. Tong, the head of the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macau Carmen Cano de Lasala, and the Australian Deputy Consul-General to Hong Kong Ken Gordon to discuss various issues.

During our meetings, they have all voiced intense concern about the current condition in which Hong Kong is implementing UN resolutions on sanctions, and expected our city to strictly observe and execute the UN resolutions.

As an international financial hub, Hong Kong has frequent trade transactions with the rest of the world.

Under the Basic Law, our city is entitled to a substantial degree of autonomy when it comes to handling foreign affairs.

Based on an instruction from the central government, Hong Kong is under obligation to carry out all sanctions imposed on any region or country by the UN Security Council in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The United Nations Sanctions Ordinance of Hong Kong also stipulates that the Chief Executive has to follow the instructions of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and formulate rules to enforce UN sanctions against all other places outside the PRC.

As the sitting chairman of the Legislative Council Subcommittee to Examine the Implementation in Hong Kong of Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council in relation to Sanctions, I am not only concerned about the pressing need for our government to implement UN sanctions by means of local legislation as soon as possible, but also highly attentive to the amount of resources allocated for this purpose and our efficacy in doing so.

As such, I hope that apart from passing new laws, our government can also divert more resources into our law enforcement agencies to boost their capabilities of actively monitoring and probing all potentially illicit commercial activities that are taking place on our soil, as well as tracing and investigating the flow of strategic commodities and controlled items through our city.

The government should also publish reports of its investigation results in this regard on a regular basis.

Only by making multiple efforts in enhancing our efficacy in enforcing UN sanctions can the SAR government strengthen international confidence in our city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 4

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Member of Legislative Council (Functional Constituency – Accountancy)