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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs > Releases > Reports > 2001

United States Report on Hong Kong

United States Report on Hong Kong as of July 31, 2001
Released to Congress on August 7, 2001
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

TABLE OF CONTENTS

SUMMARY

BACKGROUND

U.S. INTERESTS IN HONG KONG

DEVELOPMENTS AFFECTING U.S. INTERESTS IN HONG KONG (4/1/00-7/31/01)

A. Autonomy
B. Political System
C. Civil Liberties
D. Judicial and Legal Developments

U.S.-HONG KONG RELATIONS (4/1/00-7/31/01)

A. Economic-Commercial
B. Export Controls
C. Law Enforcement Cooperation, Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance
D. U.S. Military Ship and Plane Visits
E. Passport and Visa Regime
F. Cultural, Educational, Scientific, and Academic Exchanges

SUMMARY

Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty has remained one of the freest cities in Asia, with the Hong Kong Government committed to advancing Hong Kong's distinct way of life. With some notable exceptions that bear continued close attention, the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has generally kept its commitments to respect Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy. In the period from April 1, 2000 to July 31, 2001, Hong Kong remained a free society that extended basic civil liberties to its citizens every day, defined its identity in terms of being an open international city, and largely continued to make its own decisions in pursuit of its own identity and economic interests. Nonetheless, there were some issues warranting attention, especially the Hong Kong Government's strong rhetoric toward and possible action against the spiritual group Falun Gong. It is worth noting, however, that the group, although outlawed in the mainland, remains legal in Hong Kong, thus providing a highly visible validation of Hong Kong's autonomy. Despite the PRC ban on Falun Gong in the mainland, which subjected thousands of practitioners to arrest and abuse, the movement continued to practice freely in Hong Kong and held numerous demonstrations and vigils outside Beijing's Liaison Office protesting the PRC Government's mistreatment of practitioners in the PRC.

Hong Kong's civil service remained independent, and many officers initially appointed to senior posts by the British remained in key posts. Hong Kong's export control system remained robust. Hong Kong continued to play an important role as a regional finance center, actively participating in international efforts to rebound from the Asian regional recession while managing successfully the turn-around of its own economy. The Hong Kong press remained free and continued to comment critically on most issues, including the PRC and its leaders, and the Hong Kong Government. Demonstrations -- often critical of the PRC -- continued to be held. Mainland Chinese companies were subject to the same laws and regulatory supervision as all other enterprises. Indeed, Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption successfully prosecuted several Hong Kong officers of mainland companies.

The rule of law and an independent judiciary remained in place as pillars of Hong Kong's free and open society. Concerns about the ultimate authority of Hong Kong's highest court over the long term lingered over possible re-use of a mechanism, employed by the Hong Kong Government in 1999 in the "Right of Abode" case, that brought about an ex post facto reinterpretation of the Basic Law by the National People's Congress Standing Committee. Beijing's denial of requests for U.S. military ship and aircraft visits to Hong Kong in April and May 2001, although within the Central Government's purview under the rubric of defense and foreign affairs, negatively affected Hong Kong's reputation as an open, cosmopolitan, and internationally connected city. While Hong Kong residents enjoyed generally unfettered rights of expression and association, the same rights were not guaranteed to outsiders; in May, on the occasion of a visit to Hong Kong by PRC President Jiang Zemin, the Hong Kong Government denied entry to around 100 overseas Falun Gong members who had planned to participate in practice sessions and demonstrations against PRC treatment of mainland practitioners.

Hong Kong's political system continued to evolve. The legislature and free press utilized public fora to demand and obtain government accountability. The Government announced it would consider how to make senior officials more accountable, although it was not clear how accountability would be enhanced with respect to the Hong Kong people and legislature. There was public debate over the pace of democratizing elections for the legislature and chief executive, although the Hong Kong Government continued to state that the time was not appropriate to consider changes to Hong Kong's election arrangements.

The United States has substantial interests in Hong Kong and supports the concept of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy under Chinese sovereignty. In recognition of Hong Kong's autonomy, the United States continues to accord Hong Kong a special status distinct from the rest of China. The United States continues to lend support to Hong Kong's autonomy by concluding and implementing bilateral agreements, promoting trade and investment, arranging high-level visits, broadening law enforcement cooperation, bolstering educational, academic, and cultural links, and treating Hong Kong separately from the mainland for export control purposes.

There were no suspensions under section 201(A), terminations under section 202(D), or determinations under section 201(B) of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, as amended, during the period covered by this report (April 1, 2000 to July 31, 2001).

BACKGROUND

After 156 years of British colonial rule, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on July 1, 1997. Hong Kong's status is defined in two documents: the Joint Declaration signed by Britain and China in 1984, and the Basic Law promulgated by China in 1990. These documents formally establish the concept of "one country, two systems" under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy except in foreign affairs and defense, and state that Hong Kong's social and economic system, lifestyle, and the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the Hong Kong people will remain unchanged for at least 50 years. The United States supports Hong Kong's autonomy and the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, as amended, establishes the authority of the U.S. Government to treat Hong Kong as a non-sovereign entity distinct from China for the purposes of U.S. domestic law based on the principles of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

U.S. INTERESTS IN HONG KONG

U.S. interests in Hong Kong are substantial. U.S. trade, investment, and business with Hong Kong, the world's tenth largest trading entity and ninth largest banking center, flourish in a largely open environment. In 2000, U.S. exports to Hong Kong totaled U.S.$14.6 billion. U.S. direct investment in Hong Kong through 1998 amounted to over U.S.$20.8 billion. Over 1,100 resident American firms operate in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong's open society and attractive living environment make it home to an estimated 50,000 American citizens. (Included in this total are many dual nationals, who are not counted by Hong Kong authorities as resident Americans.)

Cooperation between the Hong Kong Government and the U.S. Consulate General remains broad, effective, and mutually beneficial. The United States enjoys strong cultural and educational relations with the people of Hong Kong, including a very large flow of tourists and students in both directions. The United States has significant interests in promoting economic and business relationships, maintaining a cooperative law enforcement relationship, and continuing access to Hong Kong as a routine port of call for Navy ships.

The United States also has strong interests in the protection of human rights, the promotion of democratic institutions, the free flow of information, the freedom of people to practice the religion of their choice, the development and protection of the rule of law, and the protection of individual liberties. Hong Kong residents share many values and interests with Americans and have worked to make Hong Kong a model of what can be achieved in a society that values freedom. Hong Kong is an open and largely tolerant society, in which both local and foreign non-governmental organizations continue to operate freely and representatives of the media work with few government-imposed restrictions.

Protection of American interests is enhanced by Hong Kong's continued autonomy, stability, and prosperity after reversion to Chinese sovereignty; the operation of a full-service Consulate General; the protection of civil liberties; and the preservation of Hong Kong's legal system, which permits sustained and effective cooperation on law enforcement issues. The United States works closely with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and communicates our views on Hong Kong to the Hong Kong Government, the central government authorities in Beijing, and the people of Hong Kong.

DEVELOPMENTS AFFECTING U.S. INTERESTS IN HONG KONG (April 1, 2000 to July 31, 2001)

A. Autonomy

Hong Kong's promised high degree of autonomy except in defense and foreign affairs proved to be a reality. Hong Kong, one of the world's most open and dynamic economies, actively participated as a full member of international economic organizations, such as the World Trade Organization and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, in which membership is not based on statehood. We saw no evidence of efforts by Chinese central government authorities to limit Hong Kong's economic autonomy, and indeed Hong Kong and Beijing at times adopted different positions on various issues in multilateral economic fora. Customs border controls remained in place, and Hong Kong authorities continued to develop, implement, and enforce their own trade laws and regulations. The one negative development in this positive record was a public suggestion in May 2000 by a Hong Kong-based PRC official that Hong Kong should not do business with pro-independence Taiwan companies. The Hong Kong Government swiftly and authoritatively countered the statement.

On the non-economic side, Hong Kong remained autonomous, although PRC pressures on issues related to Taiwan, the Vatican, and the Falun Gong caused concern. In April 2000, a senior Hong Kong-based PRC official publicly stated that Hong Kong media should not report views that advocate Taiwan independence as normal news. The Hong Kong Government countered that freedom of the press was protected in Hong Kong and that the media was free to comment and report on all issues. In September Hong Kong-based PRC officials urged Hong Kong's Catholic Church to keep "low key" any celebrations of the October 1 Vatican canonization of 120 foreign missionaries and Chinese Catholics martyred in China. The Hong Kong Church went ahead with its plans unchanged. Pressure from the PRC for Hong Kong to curb Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong increased over the reporting period, as evidenced by PRC President Jiang Zemin's December 2000 speech in Macau in which he warned the Hong Kong and Macau Governments never to let anyone use these Special Administrative Regions to stage any activities against the Central Government. A January 2001 international Falun Gong conference held at a Government-owned facility drew criticism by local pro-PRC elements and PRC official spokespersons of the group's activities in Hong Kong. Subsequently, focus shifted to concerns about potential Hong Kong Government action against the group, as senior officials made remarks critical of the group. In the run-up to a May visit by President Jiang, the Hong Kong Government barred entry into Hong Kong of around 100 Falun Gong members, including several Americans, for undefined "security reasons." At the same time, the Hong Kong Government allowed Falun Gong members to stage protests on the margins of President Jiang's visit. Immediately following the May events, concerns rose further in response to press reports citing unnamed officials that the Government planned to enact anti-cult legislation, which could endanger civil liberties in Hong Kong. The Government stated it was watching Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong closely and admitted studying the possibility of anti-sect legislation and researching how other jurisdictions dealt with cults. As of the time of this report, however, it maintained that it was not planning to enact such legislation.

Hong Kong continued to submit its own reports to UN human rights bodies (under PRC diplomatic cover, because Hong Kong is not a sovereign state). In April 2001, to take the most recent example, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights reviewed Hong Kong's report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison, whose stated primary role is national defense, continued to be a largely unseen and symbolic presence in Hong Kong. As provided for in the Basic Law, the Garrison may assist the Hong Kong Government in maintaining public order and disaster relief if requested by Hong Kong's Chief Executive and approved by the Central Military Commission, but no such instances occurred. The Garrison did not engage in public security work, had limited interaction with the Hong Kong disciplined services, and did not engage in any business activities. On invitation from the Hong Kong Government and with the permission of the Central Government, the PLA Garrison participated again in Hong Kong's annual Search and Rescue Exercise. (The United States also participated in that exercise.)

In a step that showed clearly the extent of Hong Kong's autonomy in immigration matters, the Hong Kong government on July 30 allowed a U.S. national, convicted by a Beijing court only two weeks earlier of alleged espionage on behalf of Taiwan and expelled from China, to enter Hong Kong.

B. Political System

The Basic Law calls for "gradual and orderly" progress toward the ultimate aim of electing the Chief Executive and all members of the legislature by universal suffrage sometime after 2007. In September 2000, the number of directly elected seats in the 60-member Legislative Council increased from 20 to 24. The number of members chosen by the Basic Law-defined selection committee of 800 people decreased from ten to six. The number of functional (occupational) constituency seats remained 30. Approximately 1.49 million voters, or 43.57 percent of registered voters, cast votes (down from record 53.29 percent in 1998 and closer to the historical norm). Observers agreed that the elections were conducted freely and fairly. Pro-democracy parties won 18 seats (the Democratic Party will remain the largest party in the Legislative Council with 12 seats). The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, generally supportive of PRC views, won 11 seats. Bread and butter issues, rather than civil liberties concerns, dominated the campaign.

Hong Kong's democratic activists continued to press for reforms of Hong Kong's political structure. Hong Kong Government officials have committed to extensive public consultation on future constitutional developments, but maintained that movement on this front should be gradual and that any decisions should take into account the experiences of the 2002 Chief Executive selection and of the 2004 Legislative Council elections. There was also substantial pressure from Hong Kong's business community to preserve the status quo with functional constituencies making up half the legislature.

There was growing popular dissatisfaction with continual confrontation between the legislative and executive branches and with the government's lack of accountability, leading government officials to say that the current structure was not tenable. The Chief Executive acknowledged the problem in his October 2000 Policy Address. A Chief Executive-chaired task force on accountability was studying the issue and the Chief Executive is expected to announce his proposal for a new system in his October 2001 Policy Address. One key question is how reforms would increase accountability to the legislature and people as well as to the Chief Executive, who is not yet democratically elected. The Government was also pursuing steps to try to improve its relations with the Legislative Council.

In July 2001, Hong Kong's legislature - over the vociferous objections of pro-democracy figures - passed a bill that laid out the provisions for the March 2002 Chief Executive selection. Pro-democracy legislators objected to several provisions in the bill, but focused particular attention on a clause that vaguely stipulated Beijing's power to remove the Chief Executive from office. Their arguments were that the provision was both damaging to Hong Kong autonomy and unnecessary. The Government and a majority in the Legislative Council ultimately rejected these arguments and the proposed amendments. Whether any damage to Hong Kong autonomy occurred was not clear, as some respected commentators argued that Beijing already had the power to remove the Chief Executive and that Hong Kong was in no position to affect that power. What was clear was that passage of the law, despite the pro-democracy activists' efforts, brought Hong Kong no closer to the Basic Law-stated goal of universal suffrage for the position of Chief Executive.

Chief Secretary Anson Chan, widely seen as a key proponent of Hong Kong's autonomy and international character, retired a year early from her post in April 2001. Her announcement generated considerable speculation about Hong Kong's future prosperity. Her successor, Donald Tsang, also a long-serving, well-regarded civil servant, brought to the office an extensive history of working closely with the international economic community in his post as Financial Secretary. During his first months as Chief Secretary, Tsang emphasized the importance of Hong Kong's rule of law, press freedom and free flow of information, level playing field, and anti-corruption orientation. Antony Leung, the new Financial Secretary, although coming from outside the Civil Service (where he was a banker), brought an excellent reputation and public service experience as a member of the Chief Executive's Executive Council and of the various public commissions.

C. Civil Liberties

Freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, association, and other basic human rights remained well respected and staunchly defended in Hong Kong, although there were instances of PRC pressure. As noted above, the severest test of Hong Kong's human rights record and autonomy was PRC pressure on Hong Kong to curb the Falun Gong. During the reporting period, the Hong Kong Government refrained from action to constrain local practitioners, but Hong Kong officials' comparisons of the group with notorious cults abroad and the Government's "study" of anti-cult legislation raised concerns in the Legislative Council as well as in the Bar Association and Catholic Church. Such legislation could endanger freedom of belief, conscience and expression in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Falun Gong has continued to practice, protest and organize freely, despite the inclination of some private sector entities like some hotels and bookstores to shy away from any association with the group.

The press has remained free and generally aggressive in pursuit of a story, although there has been some concern over self-censorship, particularly by media owners with extensive business interests in the mainland. Demonstrations averaged five per day during the reporting period, above the pre-handover rate. Police generally used minimum constraints consistent with public order. There were a number of complaints about police handling of protesters in connection with a high-profile international business conference in May 2000 which drew the participation of international VIPs, including PRC President Jiang Zemin. Still, protest within a fairly well developed civil society remained vibrant, as manifested by annual commemorations of Beijing's Tiananmen massacre, Falun Gong protests against PRC treatment of their mainland cohorts, and a generally permissive attitude toward non-violent forms of civil disobedience.

Hundreds of societies have registered since reversion, and no applications for registration have been denied. Out of thousands of applications to hold public rallies or marches submitted since reversion, a small number were disallowed. In the most recent example, in June 2001 police denied permission to a group of truck drivers wishing to conduct a second "go-slow" drive through crowded and heavily trafficked downtown Hong Kong a day after its similar protest in another part of the city. At the urging of some minority and human rights groups, the Government has been considering the introduction of anti-racial discrimination legislation. Smuggling of and trafficking in persons through and to Hong Kong has remained an issue; the Government has continued to combat pro-actively such criminal activities.

Article 23 of the Basic Law requires Hong Kong to enact laws to prohibit subversion, secession, treason, and sedition against the Chinese Government, among other things. The process of formulating the required legislation continues at a very deliberate pace, with no indication when such laws will be put forward; the Government says it will conduct wide consultations. Human rights groups have welcomed this approach, though they worry about eventual possible creation of speech crimes, particularly regarding subversion and secession, which have no common law basis.

D. Judicial and Legal Developments

Rule of law has continued to prevail in Hong Kong under the common law system dating from colonial days and as prescribed by the Basic Law. From district courts up to the Court of Final Appeal -- Hong Kong's ultimate adjudication body -- justice is meted out fairly, and is seen to be fair. Judicial appointments are made by a non-partisan commission (although some have called publicly for the nomination process to be more transparent). The quality of judges is high, and the Court of Final Appeal includes distinguished justices from other Commonwealth jurisdictions who take part on a case-by-case basis.

The well known 1999 "right of abode" case, during which the Hong Kong Government sought a reinterpretation by the PRC National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), continues to loom in the background whenever sensitive issues come before the Court of Final Appeal. Although the Basic Law provides for interpretation by the NPCSC under certain circumstances, using a mainland mechanism foreign to common law practice to overturn a decision of Hong Kong's courts unsettled many who thought that such a practice undermined Hong Kong's judicial authority. Although there have been no subsequent referrals to the NPCSC for a reinterpretation, the Hong Kong Government has in two recent right of abode cases before the Court argued that the Court itself should seek NPCSC interpretations. Court rulings on July 20, however, revealed that the Court declined to seek such interpretations and remains determined to interpret broadly the areas of Hong Kong autonomy. The Hong Kong Government stated that it would not seek an NPCSC reinterpretation in one case that it lost.

Concerns also remained over concurrent jurisdiction, arising when Hong Kong residents were arrested and tried in China for crimes at least partly committed in Hong Kong. A limited Hong Kong-PRC arrest notification mechanism entered into force in January 2001, and discussions continued on rendition and prisoner transfer agreements. Concerns about Hong Kongers' rights under the agreements kept the issues under close scrutiny.

U.S.-HONG KONG RELATIONS (April 1, 2000 to July 31, 2001)

A. Economic-Commercial

Over the past two years Hong Kong has made substantial progress in the fight against pirated movie, audio, and software compact discs and pirated trademark goods. In addition to stepped up enforcement, Hong Kong significantly strengthened its IPR legal regime, including legislation passed last June to clearly criminalize corporate use of unlicensed software. The U.S. Trade Representative now regularly cites Hong Kong as a model for other Asian economies struggling with their own problems of IPR piracy.

Hong Kong maintains few non-tariff barriers and investment restrictions and moved steadily to reduce or remove what few restrictions exist. For example, beginning in 1998, Hong Kong has opened the broadcast and telecommunications markets to greater competition. One result of this liberalization has been a significant increase in U.S. direct foreign investment (U.S. $2.5 billion in 1999) including several major telecommunications projects. The major remaining hurdle is opening of the local wire-based telecommunications market, which the Government is committed to open fully by January 2003. Hong Kong is justifiably proud of its record of promotion of competition. However, the absence of antitrust laws and the high cost of local market entry has led to domination of some service sectors by major local companies.

The U.S. continued efforts to negotiate significant liberalization of the U.S.-Hong Kong civil aviation agreement. Liberalization would benefit consumers, businesses, and airlines and also the overall Hong Kong economy. A wide gap remains, however, between the U.S. position and the more restrictive Hong Kong approach.

U.S. companies have a favorable view of Hong Kong's business environment, including its autonomous, impartial legal system and the free flow of information, low taxation, and well-developed infrastructure. The American Chamber of Commerce's annual business confidence survey of its members, conducted in late-2000, showed growing optimism and confidence in Hong Kong's economy in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Among survey respondents, 95 percent indicated they believe the outlook in 2001 would be "good" or "satisfactory," and expect that situation to continue through 2005. Major U.S. computer, telecommunications, and media firms set up regional offices in Hong Kong, solidifying Hong Kong's role for U.S. firms as a platform for entering the China market and the wider Asia region.

The Hong Kong Government issued a consultation paper on labeling biotech foods, which proposed three policy options, including voluntary and mandatory measures. The U.S. Government is watching these consultations closely, as the adoption of any mandatory measures could affect U.S. exports to Hong Kong of biotech foods.

B. Export Controls

There were no significant problems between Hong Kong and the United States in export control cooperation. As called for in the Sino-U.K. Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, Hong Kong remained a separate customs territory, enjoyed a high degree of autonomy in the export controls area, and maintained an export control regime that the U.S. Government has encouraged others to emulate. Hong Kong's export control system is exceptionally transparent and local authorities cooperate closely with U.S. counterparts to ensure compliance with relevant export control regimes. In May, officials from our two governments conducted a sixth round of the formal interagency export control consultations. These talks reaffirmed U.S. confidence in Hong Kong's export control autonomy and underlined Hong Kong's strong commitment to export control enforcement and outreach cooperation with the United States.

U.S. Department of Commerce representatives in Hong Kong regularly carry out pre-license checks and post-shipment verifications on companies in Hong Kong as part of the dual-use licensing, vetting, and post-issuance process. Likewise, Department of State and U.S. Customs officers carry out end-use checks on munition items. In both cases, Hong Kong officials are neither informed of such checks nor involved in making them. The importance of these checks was underscored by a 1997 General Accounting Office (GAO) report that stated that such checks were a key factor in determining whether Hong Kong continued to maintain an effective export control system. These efforts are supplemented by regular visits by Department of Commerce experts, who spend several days at a time in Hong Kong conducting pre-shipment and post-shipment verification checks.

One of the few blemishes on Hong Kong's strong record of export control enforcement was an October 2000 Hong Kong court decision to dismiss charges stemming from the 1996-97 re-export of U.S. high-performance computers from Hong Kong to China's Changsha University. U.S. and Hong Kong authorities cooperated closely to facilitate Hong Kong's prosecution and the U.S. investigation of this case. Unfortunately, the Hong Kong court ruled that in the absence of definitive testimony from the U.S. exporter there was inadequate evidence to prove the Hong Kong Government's charge that an unauthorized re-export took place.

C. Law Enforcement Cooperation, Extradition, and Mutual Legal Assistance

Law enforcement cooperation remained a central pillar of U.S.-Hong Kong relations. The Consulate is home to seven law enforcement agencies: DEA, FBI, INS, Customs, Secret Service, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, and State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security. U.S. and Hong Kong law enforcement agencies cooperated to combat activities such as alien smuggling, narcotics trafficking, commercial fraud, counterfeiting, credit card fraud, money laundering, violations of intellectual property rights, and general organized crime. U.S.-Hong Kong agreements on extradition, prisoner transfer and mutual legal assistance, in effect since 1998, 1999, and 2000, respectively, all continued to function smoothly in most instances.

D. U.S. Military Ship and Plane Visits

Following the April 2001 EP-3 aircraft incident, the PRC denied requests for U.S. military ship and plane visits to Hong Kong for reasons apparently unrelated to Hong Kong. In April, PRC authorities denied permission for a U.S. military aircraft to stop over in Hong Kong during a planned routine navigational training exercise, and in May, they denied permission for a U.S. Navy ship port call scheduled for late June. This unfortunate downturn was similar to the halt in such visits in the wake of the May 1999 mistaken NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. In July, PRC authorities approved the visits of two U.S. Navy ships to Hong Kong later that month. It is not yet clear whether the PRC will permit such visits to proceed unobstructed, as was the case from September 1999 until May 2001.

E. Passport and Visa Regime

The HKSAR passport is issued to Chinese nationals holding Hong Kong permanent identity cards. The British National Overseas (BNO) passport is issued by the British Government. China, however, recognizes the BNO passport as a travel document only, and not as evidence of citizenship. Most Hong Kong residents are entitled to hold BNO passports and HKSAR passports concurrently. The Hong Kong Government continued to seek visa-free access for the HKSAR passport to other countries, with about 90 countries currently affording visa-free entry. U.S. citizens visiting Hong Kong for a temporary stay of less than 90 days may enter without a visa. The ability of the United States to reciprocate -- to offer visa-free entry to holders of the HKSAR passport -- is governed and limited by the terms of the Visa Waiver Program in section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. Section 1187. The United States currently issues ten-year multiple-entry visitor visas to qualified applicants, the maximum validity period available under U.S. law.

F. Cultural, Educational, Scientific, and Academic Exchanges

Increasing exchanges between Hong Kong's seven universities and other educational institutions and their U.S. counterparts range from short-term visits by American faculty and summer programs for students to ambitious multi-year exchanges of faculty and staff. In general, such linkages are beneficial exercises involving a practical exchange of ideas and sharing of resources and experiences. The Fulbright program in Hong Kong, which operates independently from the one in mainland China, supports four U.S. lecturers and three to four U.S. students in Hong Kong each year. The Hong Kong-America Center, whose Board of Governors is made up of prominent American and Hong Kong leaders from the business and academic communities, has been in operation since 1993 with support from local universities. In 2001, the number of member institutions increased from four to five with the addition of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The other supporting institutions are the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Baptist University, the University of Hong Kong, and City University. The Department of State supports the University of Hong Kong American Studies degree program by providing a Fulbright Scholar to the program each year. The Institute of International Education (IIE) Hong Kong provides educational advisory services and conducts outreach programs for schools and thousands of Hong Kong students who wish to pursue studies in the United States. It also organizes well-attended university fairs and briefs American educators on opportunities in Hong Kong. The Department of State International Visitor Program supports a wide variety of professional exchanges for candidates sponsored by the Consulate General. In 2000-01, 13 individuals, including journalists, politicians, government and law enforcement officials, and an environmentalist, traveled to the United States on these study tours.

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