China defended on Wednesday its request for foreign consulates in Hong Kong to submit names, residential addresses and job descriptions of their local staff, saying it was “international common practice”.
Its Office of Commissioner of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (OCMFA) in Hong Kong sent letters dated Monday to consulates in the financial hub, giving them one month to submit details of their local staff, according to documents seen by AFP.
China has ratcheted up control of the semi-autonomous city in recent years and imposed a sweeping national security law in 2020 in the aftermath of a huge, sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.
Two diplomatic sources confirmed on Tuesday they received the requests and told AFP it was the first time they had been asked to supply such information.
The European Union office for Hong Kong and Macau said it was “looking carefully into the matter”.
The OCMFA said in a statement on its website on Wednesday that its request “was in line with the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs and international common practice”.
“It’s understood that China’s consular bodies in foreign countries have also provided their local staff’s information in accordance with the local governments’ requests,” the statement said.
“China has been carrying out necessary management of matters in relation to foreign consulates in Hong Kong in a pragmatic and lawful manner,” it said, asking for “support and cooperation” from consulates in Hong Kong.
According to the documents seen by AFP, the forms were prepared by the Hong Kong government’s Protocol Division, which handles consular affairs and official visits to the city.
The Protocol Division has not responded to AFP’s queries.
Last year, the OCMFA asked for floor plans of properties rented by foreign missions in Hong Kong after a multi-million-dollar property sale by the US consulate in Hong Kong was halted.
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