They say China is undermining the Asian financial hub’s economy.
The group of about 70 people led by hedge fund manager Edward Chin added its voice to wider calls for full democracy in an open letter to China’s president Xi Jinping published this week in several newspapers.
Worried that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is being eroded, they urged China’s communist leaders to stop interfering in the city’s administrative affairs. They also expressed fears about growing threats to the city’s freedom of speech and the press, rule of law and strong anti-corruption culture.
The letter said: “The current political climate in Hong Kong is having a negative impact to Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a major financial centre in Asia. Hong Kong’s existing political system has become the stumbling block to the city’s long-term social, political and economic growth, and is the root cause of social division and disharmony in Hong Kong.”
The group has joined forces with political activists planning acts of civil disobedience in the summer, including occupying the city’s financial district to press their demands for genuine democracy.
Since Hong Kong ceased to be a British colony in 1997, its leader, known as the chief executive, has been chosen by an elite committee of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons, while some politicians are elected by voters and others picked by business groups.
Beijing has promised the next leaders will be chosen through a democratic process starting in 2017. It has stoked resentment by signalling that only China-friendly candidates will be able to stand as chief executive.
Mr Chin, 46, said he only became interested in politics when he adopted a baby boy three years ago and started worrying about the kind of city his son would inherit.
He said: “We don’t want this city to die. There has been so much red influence in the system already in Hong Kong.”
He said that Hong Kongers were increasingly losing out in the race for top jobs in the city’s banking and finance industry to those with links to China’s Communist Party elite.
Mr Chin said Hong Kong was becoming a destination for large amounts of money from China, some of which was suspected to be linked to corruption. And he said that a recent meat cleaver attack on the former editor of one of the city’s most respected newspapers had intensified concerns about attempts to muzzle the media.
Kevin Lau, the former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, was slashed in the back repeatedly in broad daylight in late February as he left his car.