The Kazakh Consulate-General Opens in Hong Kong: Another Step towards International Integration
Bulat Sarsenbayev, the Kazakh Consul General in Hong Kong and Macao, answers questions from our magazine.
In which countries does Kazakhstan have active Consulates-General?
In addition to the new one, we have three Consulates-General: in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Istanbul (Turkey) and Frankfurt-am-Main (Germany). This is determined by the large numbers of Kazakhstani citizens traveling in or making business trips to these countries. In addition, a great number of Kazakhs live in Istanbul, and many former Kazakhstani citizens are residents of Frankfurt-am-Main, and therefore require a greater level of attention from the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.
In addition, it was decided to establish new Consulates-General in St Petersburg, Amsterdam and Hong Kong under a presidential decree issued this summer. Our Consulate began working on 12th August 2003.
Why was a Kazakhstan Consulate-General set up in Hong Kong?
I understand that the idea of establishing an official Kazakh mission in this region was a result of the President’s visit to Hong Kong in June 2001.
Currently Hong Kong is part of China, where a Kazakhstani Embassy already exists, so under these circumstances we only need to establish a Consulate or Consulate-General. On the instructions of the President, the issue has been discussed with the Chinese party. After two years of preparation our countries have signed a relevant agreement, which also allows a Chinese Consulate-General to be opened in Kazakhstan.
Broadly speaking, the decision to open the Consulate-General in Hong Kong is part of our country’s policy of implementing its sovereignty and enlarging international contacts. This will certainly strengthen Kazakhstan’s authority in the world and provide new opportunities for developing the economy.
How can domestic and foreign investors benefit from applying to the Consulate-General of which you are the head?
It should be noted that the consular district fully embraces special administrative regions: Xianggang (Hong Kong) and Aomen (Macao). These regions are former British and Portuguese colonies and have only recently fallen under Chinese jurisdiction. China has guarantieed not to interfere greatly in their independence for 50 years, except on issues of foreign and defense policy. This constitutes quite a high degree of autonomy for these regions. China is a unitary state, but the fact that Hong Kong and Macao have accepted a settlement based on the “one country – two systems” principle, it turns into a kind of federal state. This includes having its own currency, an independent budget (Hong Kong does not pay taxes into the Chinese budget), a normal judicial system, a parliament able to draft and pass its own laws, and active administrative and executive bodies. Customs and visa regulations are in force between Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. Hong Kong can join international organizations independently. That is why official reports refer to these laws as constitutional documents.
I will not list all the consular functions, in view of the fact that Kazakhstan acceded to the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in 1997. I can only state that we will do our best to create satisfactory conditions for domestic and foreign businessmen working in any of these countries.
We will provide Kazakhstani citizens with information about Hong Kong and Macao, including their economies, laws, customs and immigration regulations. The Consulate-General will facilitate the issue of Kazkhstani visas, and other consular services such as granting certificates to those who have their lost passports and wish to return to their country, and consular certification of documents. However, the main goal is the protection of our country and its citizens.
I believe that from now on the people of Hong Kong and Macao will be able to learn more about Kazakhstan and its unique opportunities. We will promote direct cultural and economic relations between these regions and Kazakhstan. The Ministry of Culture of Kazakhstan and the Asyl Mura project are currently preparing programmes on Kazakh musical heritage that will be broadcast on Radio One in Hong Kong. The English-language newspaper South China Morning Post published a color supplement about the establishment of the Consulate-General and Republic Day, with information on Kazakhstan and a welcoming letter of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kasymzhomart Tokayev.
Is the Consulate-General planning to meet with businessmen from these countries?
Such meetings are a primary concern for us. We will try to keep Hong Kong’s business and financial community informed of the investment projects being implemented in various sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy. We will use the mass media for this purpose, and will also organize meetings with state officials and businessmen. The work of the Consulate-General be rounded off by investment conferences held and prepared in Hong Kong as well as in Kazakhstan. I believe that there are great prospects for co-operation. Today, local businesses are interested in our country. For example, the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation is seeking co-operation in the area of freight traffic over the Hong Kong-Mainland China-Kazakhstan route. This route will allow freight to be transported onward to other countries. We are also negotiating a draft agreement for air traffic. A number of Hong Kong airline companies are interested in the possibility of Hong Kong-Almaty flights.
As one of the largest financial centres of the world, Hong Kong has enormous opportunities to invest in all kinds of projects, including the production of high tech goods and services. In addition, it is one of the world’s largest international transport centres. Is it to be expected that Hong Kong will officially share its experience with Kazakhstan?
The success is truly impressive. I would like to quote some figures as an example. The GDP of Hong Kong (with a population of 6.7 million) makes up 1,259.8 billion of Hong Kong dollars, which is 185,600 HK dollars per capita (1 USD equals 7.76 HK dollars). The major GDP components are retail and wholesale export and import transactions (23.8%), property (13.1%), financial operations (10.8%), government services (8.8%), commercial services (8.6%), transport services (7.7%), production (5.2%) and construction (4.9%). Hong Kong has the world’s tenth highest level of market capitalization (52.2 billion HK dollars).
Against this background, one of the Consulate-General’s major activities will be to study the economic experience of these Chinese regions, and to analyze and develop projects for transferring this experience to Kazakhstan. In this respect, Hong Kong has notable experience in the sphere of innovation and technology. It was for this reason that the Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) was founded to co-ordinate and assist in research and promotional operations, technology transfer, the introduction of an innovation and technology culture, promotion of the technology business, infrastructure provision, developing human resources to support innovation and technology, and the introduction of international standards. ITC co-operates with government organizations, the industrial and business communities, and research institutions. Work is being carried out in the areas of modern technologies, electronics, biotechnology, and environmental protection, alongside the re-equipment of traditional industries such as textiles, clothing, watch making and the production of plastic goods. The Innovation and Technology Fund was established in late 1999 with an authorized capital of 5 billion HK dollars. By the end of June, it had received 1,727 applications reaching 6.1 billion HK dollars, and 418 of these totalling 1.2 billion HK dollars, were approved. A state venture foundation for the submission of research applications has been launched, with an authorized capital of 570 million HK dollars, and has already invested 387 million HK dollars in 24 projects. Other new organizations and institutes include the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp., the Science and Technology Research Institute, the Institute of Chinese Medicine, the Productivity Council, and the Design Centre.
I believe that much of this experience will be shared when implementing joint investment projects, through close co-operation between the businesspeople of the two countries. It is also worth noting that co-operation with Hong Kong or Macao will allow Kazakhstan to trade with the whole of southern China, which has a population of several million, and a huge industrial and financial potential. These territories with their business experience and links, and their knowledge of foreign languages, are a gateway to the outside world for rapidly developing southern China.
What measures does the Consulate-General expect to take to promote domestic companies on the Hong Kong market?
I can only say that the Consulate-General will make the most of its potential to promote our goods and services on both the Hong Kong and global markets with the help of joint projects. I admit that it is a challenge, but we will fulfill it. The work should be done gradually, with the help of suitable measures to allow problems to be solved. It is an open secret that we will need time.
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