Hong Kong group matching jobless protesters with firms says Companies Registry holding up application

Phila Siu

A group that previously expressed support for Hong Kong’s independence and protest movement says its application to incorporate a new company is being held up by the Companies Registry, which has asked it to clarify past public statements.

The founders of The Coming Dawn Facebook page have been matching job-seeking protesters with employers for several months via the social media platform. They hope to establish a company using the same name to take their initiative further, but believe the application will be rejected.

In a letter dated Friday, May 29, and posted on the would-be company’s Facebook page on Sunday, the registry noted the duo had told reporters they supported Hong Kong’s independence, wanted to develop the “yellow economic circle” so protesters could make money with dignity, and mentioned revolution.

Residents line up at a snack shop that supports the protest movement. Photo: Winson Wong

The so-called yellow economic circle is a movement to direct spending to businesses that have publicly expressed support for the protest movement.

In a social media post, the group accused the registry of preventing those with dissenting voices from doing business in Hong Kong.

“I am not worried about myself. What I am worried about is whether existing ‘yellow’ businesses and shops could have their registrations revoked,” said one of the founders, who asked not to be named.

The registry’s letter requesting clarification about the pair’s public comments came a day after the Chinese legislature endorsed a resolution for a Hong Kong national security law that would outlaw acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and interference by foreign or external forces in the city’s affairs.

The founders’ answers, the registry said, would “enable us to consider the application properly”.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said while the registry had wide-ranging power to reject requests, there was nothing in the law that barred people supportive of the protest movement and even independence from setting up companies.

“We don’t have Article 23 yet, and the national security law has not been promulgated yet,” Luk said. “But it’s hard to challenge the registry’s decision because it has the power to do so, as long as it thinks an approval would not be suitable.”

Article 23 of the city’s Basic Law, its mini-constitution, requires Hong Kong to enact its own national security law.

“It’s just like the Immigration Department has been rejecting people from entering Hong Kong. It has done so based on various reasons, but it never has to offer concrete reasons why,” Luk said.

The Coming Dawn founder who spoke to the Post said the group had already helped about 200 people find jobs in the past few months, including work in home renovation and translation.

Hong Kong unemployment rate rises for sixth straight month in March

Protesters described their skills through the Facebook page, and the platform matched them with interested companies.

The founder said they decided to officially incorporate after some employers required authorised letters in the recruitment process.

“My message to Hongkongers is that we need to be prepared, because more steps will be taken by the authorities to take our freedom away,” he said.

If the company registration was eventually rejected, he said they might register for another company. He said if he were barred from setting up companies in Hong Kong altogether, he would consider asking friends to handle the registration process.

Anti-government protesters march on January 1. Photo: Sam Tsang

In 2017, the registry rejected a bid by the Hong Kong National Party, which advocated independence, to rename a shell company “HKNP Limited”.

The following year the party was banned under the Societies Ordinance for posing an “imminent threat to national security”.

Party founder Andy Chan Ho-tin had argued the ordinance, which covers interest groups, did not apply to a registered firm, but he failed to win his appeal against the ban.

Student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s bid to register his political party Demosisto was also rejected that same year. The registry refused to comment on Demosisto’s application, but said they could be turned down if companies were formed for an unlawful purpose.

The registry declined to comment on the Coming Dawn case, but said all registrations were handled in accordance with the Companies Ordinance.

In examining applications, the registry would look at, among other things, the company’s name, and what it said in its constitutional documents.

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