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GSD questions Govt on Hong Kong office and ‘economic migration’ policy

Gibraltar would welcome residents of Hong Kong who applied to settle on the Rock, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told Parliament this week, in a move that echoes the UK’s offer of citizenship to eligible residents of the territory holding British National (Overseas) passports.

Responding to Opposition questions in Parliament, Mr Picardo said his Government fully supported the UK Government’s stance on the issue, amid concerns that Hong Kong’s freedoms were being violated by a new security law. 

Britain has described the security law as a "clear and serious" violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration under which it later handed Hong Kong back to China and said London would offer around three million residents a path to British citizenship.

China's ambassador to London accused Britain this week of gross interference and making irresponsible remarks that could damage future Chinese investment.

“We take the view that the position set out by the UK Government is the right one,” Mr Picardo said, as he was quizzed by the GSD on the issue.

“If this British overseas territory is potentially one of the places some of the people of Hong Kong may find and build their homes in the future, we will be welcoming of that and of the skills that they would bring.”

The exchange arose as the Gibraltar Government confirmed it had closed its Hong Kong office but would retain a presence in the territory through its Hong Kong representative, Jason Cruz.

The Minister for Commerce, Albert Isola, said the lease on the office lapsed in 2018 and the Government was reviewing what the future will hold not just in Hong Kong but in other jurisdictions also. 

But the decision to keep Mr Cruz in the Hong Kong post has drawn flak from the Opposition, which said his employment package is worth £250,000 and is hard to justify in the current economic climate.

“Given potential redundancies in Gib & Govt stealth tax measures, this is indefensible,” GSD MP Daniel Feetham said on Twitter yesterday.

The exchange on the Hong Kong office prompted the Leader of the Opposition, Keith Azopardi, to ask if the Gibraltar Government would pursue a policy of encouraging economic migration to Gibraltar.

Mr Picardo replied that was already the case. 

[Text Wrapping Break]“We have reached out so that people understand that Gibraltar is here and has a role to play in the future of the people of Hong Kong who can no longer consider staying a viable proposition,” he said.  

The backdrop to this is Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer to approximately three million eligible Hong Kong residents to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship. 

Mr Johnson describes himself as a "Sinophile", but has spoken of the need to "stick up for our friends in Hong Kong”.

Hong Kong returned to China on July 1, 1997, under a "one country, two systems" formula guaranteeing wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary.

Mr Picardo said Gibraltar’s support extended beyond Mr Johnson’s offer and that he also backed statements by the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, in respect of China’s obligations under the arrangements entered into in 1997.

Mr Picardo said Gibraltar’s offer of welcome to the people of Hong Kong was not just for the affluent and wealthy people of the territory.

“There are many good, talented, entrepreneurial people from Hong Kong who will be looking for another fantastic base in which to establish their businesses, in which to develop their entrepreneurial skills, in which to share their skills and educate those who they bring their skills to also,” he said.

“The Government would be fully supportive of that.”