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Foreign ministers of Five Eyes group nations discussed HK on call: official

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Foreign ministers from the Five Eyes intelligence sharing group discussed the situation in Hong Kong during a conference call on Wednesday, a Canadian government official told Reuters.

The official declined to elaborate. The Five Eyes groups Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Separately, Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne tweeted on Wednesday that he discussed with his counterparts from the other countries many issues regarding international peace and security.

Beijing imposed a new national security legislation on Hong Kong last week despite protests from residents of the island and Western nations, setting China’s freest city and a major financial hub on a more authoritarian track.

Since then Canada has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and said it could boost immigration from the former British colony.

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Politics

Hong Kong: Which citizens can now apply to live in the UK – and how they can do it

The UK government has offered a route to British citizenship for nearly three million people living in Hong Kong following the imposition of controversial new security laws by China.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the citizenship offer as he described the new legislation as a “clear and serious breach” of the deal that saw Hong Kong pass back to China from Britain in 1997.

There are fears that the new Chinese law will undermine Hong Kong’s freedom, and is aimed at quashing defiance against the mainland.

In an early sign of what could become the norm, a man carrying a flag that called for independence is among those to have already been arrested under the new law.

Who is being offered a route to UK citizenship?

The UK government is now offering a “bespoke” immigration route for those holding British National (Overseas) status and their dependents.

Someone who was a British overseas territories citizen by connection with Hong Kong was able to register as a British national (overseas) before 1 July 1997.

British overseas territories citizens from Hong Kong who did not register as British nationals (overseas) and had no other nationality or citizenship on 30 June 1997 became British overseas citizens on 1 July 1997.

Under current rules, BNOs can hold a British passport and get consular assistance and protection from UK embassies.

However, they are subject to immigration controls and do not have the automatic right to live or work in the UK.

What are BNOs being offered now?

Under the bespoke scheme, BNOs are being granted five years’ limited leave to remain in the UK, with the right to work or study.

After those five years they will be able to apply for settled status and, after a further 12 months with settled status, they will be able to apply for citizenship.

How many BNOs might apply?

As of February, there were nearly 350,000 BNO passport holders, while the UK government estimates there are around 2.9 million BNOs living in Hong Kong.

The government has said all those with BNO status will be eligible for the bespoke scheme, as will their family dependants who are usually resident in Hong Kong

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs there will be “no quotas on numbers” for the scheme.

The Home Office will put in place a “simple, streamlined, application process”, he added.

Downing Street has said BNOs will be eligible to travel to the UK immediately ahead of the details of the scheme being finalised “in the coming weeks” and that they will not face salary thresholds.

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World News

DPS graduates can attend Community College of Denver for free this fall

Eligible 2020 graduates of Denver Public Schools can attend the Community College of Denver for free this fall, the college announced Tuesday.

“We want to help you continue on your educational journey while staying safe during these uncertain times,” read an announcement from CCD.

The offer comes as colleges across the country grapple with the impacts of the new coronavirus, which has many institutions — including the Colorado Community College system — predicting a decline in enrollment as students wait to see what the status of the highly contagious respiratory illness is come fall before shelling out tuition dollars.

CCD plans to offer a mix of in-person and remote learning options for the fall.

To qualify, 2020 DPS graduates — including undocumented students — must:

  • Meet the requirements for in-state tuition.
  • Fill out a financial aid application or income information form.
  • Apply to CCD and register for at least six credits.
  • Be in good academic standing if you took concurrent enrollment classes at CCD in high school.

The offer ends July 15.

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World News

Can India afford to boycott Chinese products?

Anti-China sentiment has been on the rise in India since last week’s fatal border clash between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in fighting at a disputed border site in the Himalayan Galwan Valley, prompting a swift and theatrical backlash on India’s streets.

People in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad hurled Chinese TV sets down their balconies, while traders in the capital, Delhi, protested by burning Chinese goods.

A central minister called for a boycott of restaurants selling “Chinese food” – an Indianised version of Chinese cuisine that is hugely popular; an opposition leader was seen clambering atop a JCB machine to blacken a billboard of Chinese smartphone maker Oppo; a group of eager protesters went viral after burning an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, mistaking him for Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

The Indian government hasn’t explicitly announced a boycott, but by all accounts states and public sector companies have been reportedly asked to desist from issuing new contracts to Chinese companies. The railways have reportedly cancelled a signalling project that was given to a Chinese company in 2016.

Bilateral trade between the countries, already down by 15% since the 2018 financial year, could take a further hit as India mulls extra tariffs and anti-dumping duties on Chinese imports.

But, experts warn, it’s easier said than done to convert such boycott rhetoric into reality.

What is the alternative to China?

For one, China is India’s second-largest trading partner after the US. And two, it accounts for nearly 12% of India’s imports across sectors such as chemicals, automotive components, consumer electronics and pharmaceuticals.

“At least 70% of India’s drug intermediary needs are fulfilled by China,” Sudarshan Jain, president of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, told the BBC.

Although India has announced a new policy to become more self-reliant in drugs, he says that will take time.

India’s booming smartphone sector also heavily depends on cheap Chinese phones made by Oppo, Xaomi and others with the lion’s share of the local market.

Most consumer electronics makers say they’ll be paralysed if they can’t import crucial intermediate goods from China.

“We are not worried about finished goods. But most players across the globe import key components such as compressors from China,” says B Thiagrajan, managing director of Blue Star Limited, an Indian manufacturer of air conditioners, air purifiers and water coolers.

Mr Thiagrajan adds that it will take a long time to set up local supply chains, and that there are few alternatives for certain kinds of imports.

Chinese money funds Indian unicorns

India and China have also become increasingly integrated in recent years. Chinese money, for instance, has penetrated India’s technology sector, with companies like Alibaba and Tencent strategically pumping in billions of dollars into Indian startups such as Zomato, Paytm, Big Basket and Ola. This has led to Chinese giants deeply “embedding themselves” in India’s socio-economic and technology ecosystem, according to Gateway House, a Mumbai-based think tank.

“There have been more than 90 Chinese investments in Indian startups, most of them made over the last five years. Eighteen out of 30 Indian unicorns [tech startups valued at over $1bn] have a Chinese investor,” says Amit Bhandari, an analyst at Gateway house.

At $6.2bn, direct Chinese investment in India appears relatively small. But, Mr Bhandari says, restricting the likes of Alibaba from creating monopolies in the Indian market will be crucial given the “outsized impact” of these investments.

To that effect, India has already amended its FDI (foreign direct investment) rules to stave off hostile takeovers of Indian companies.

While China has accused India of contravening WTO principles, it’s unlikely to cut ice under current circumstances “as there is no way of enforcing any decision if an inter-country conflict is cited as a reason to justify the violations”, Zulfiquar Memon, managing partner at MZM Legal, said in an email interview.

This gives India some leeway to reduce its dependence on imports, and heed growing calls for self-reliance. India’s gaping trade deficit of nearly $50bn with China has long been a sticking point between the two countries, and the current standoff provides an impetus for India to shrink the gap.

Is self-reliance the answer?

India’s domestic manufacturing sector can substitute as much as 25% of total imports from China, according to new findings from Acuité, a ratings agency. This would lead to a reduced import bill of over $8bn in a single year.

Handicrafts, for instance, is a category where India imported $431m worth of goods from China in the 2020 financial year without any significant reciprocal exports.

But Mr Bhandari of Gateway House says boycotting popular Chinese apps such as TikTok might be more effective than boycotting physical goods in terms of value added because there are multiple alternatives.

But from India’s standpoint, none of this is likely to play out without grave consequences to the economy, especially during a severe downturn. China, on the other hand, is less concerned since India accounts for only 3% of its exports.

So far Beijing has been restrained in its reaction to the growing backlash in India.

But a recent op-ed in the daily Global Times warned that “China’s restraint is not weak”.

It says it would “be extremely dangerous for India to allow anti-China groups to stir public opinion, thus escalating tensions”, and adds that the focus should instead be on “economic recovery”.

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