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歐盟協調支援香港的潛在阻力 — 塞浦路斯對中國的依賴

2021/1/28 — 17:00

圖片素材來源:Hong Kong Watch、Dimitris Vetsikas @ Pixabay

圖片素材來源:Hong Kong Watch、Dimitris Vetsikas @ Pixabay

香港連續兩週的《國安法》大規模逮捕震驚國際社會,但比利時和塞浦路斯與中國之間的引渡條約卻於北京政府在 2020 年 10 月正式批准後悄然生效。然而,比利時及塞浦路斯政府皆沒有表達任何感到意外或暫緩條約的意願。

這再一次印證了與中共息息相關的「紅色資本」對於歐洲國家巨大的影響力。

以塞浦路斯為例,自其於 2013 年推出針對投資者的「黃金簽證計劃」後,這個地中海小島就可謂已完全被來自中國的資本滲透。當地房地產市場充斥著「紅色資本」,中共政權關係千絲萬縷的商人及公司只要透過於當地投資 200 萬歐羅便成功換取到了公民身份。

廣告

根據半島電視台的一份報告指出,於 2017 年至 2019 年期間,有 482 名中國公民透過是項計劃成為了當地公民,當中包括於 2017 年獲得公民身份的前金華市政協委員傅正軍;於 2018 年獲得公民身份的武漢市黃埔區政協委員、中國節能環保集團旗下中部工業發展局局長陳安林;以及於 2019 年 2 月取得塞浦路斯護照的濱州市政協委員趙振鵬。

單是該項計劃,便為塞浦路斯貢獻了其 2017 年度 GDP 的百分之五,亦令當地政府決定放寬對於「高風險人士」的限制。但基於來自歐盟的巨大壓力,塞浦路斯政府終於 2020 年 10 月宣佈取消相關計劃。

廣告

然而,並非所有「紅色資本」都是透過「黃金簽證計劃」進入塞浦路斯的。香港商人何猷龍於 2018 年 1 月宣佈,作為其歐洲賭場藍圖的一部分,於當地開始建造投資 1 億歐元興建酒店及房屋。總部位於香港的 China Glory National Investment 亦於 2019 年 11 月宣佈,作為其 15 億歐元投資計劃的其中一部,以 2.9 億歐元收購位於當地的 Venus Rock 高爾夫球渡假村。

短短六年間,塞浦路斯當地來自中國的直接投資已由 2012 年的每年 9,495 萬美元躍升至 2018 年的每年 8.45 億美元。去年,中國投資者更承諾進一步增加對當地的投資,估計總值 10 億歐元左右。

「紅色資本」所涉獵的範圍亦遠不止於房地產及旅遊業。2015 年,陽谷祥光銅業以 9,620 萬歐元收購了銅礦開採公司 Atalaya Mining Plc 百分之 22 的股份。中資公司華為宣佈將於塞浦路斯投資建設電信基礎設施,並由當地及希臘政府一同牽頭於歐洲進行 5G 網絡發展。由中國石油管道局工程有限公司為首的跨國集團於 2019 年 11 月簽訂了一項有關建造碼頭用於進口液化天然氣作發電之用,該項工程價值 2.9 億歐羅。

過去幾年來,中國國企亦積極參與競標收購負責營運當地拉納卡國際機場以及利馬索爾港(當地主要港口之一)的 Hermes Airport Ltd,以擴大中國對於地中海地區「一帶一路」基建,以及進入歐洲控制權。

與其他南歐地區一樣,大量來自中國的投資於塞浦路斯政府在 2013 年同意接受歐盟、歐洲中央銀行以及國際貨幣基金組織的 100 億歐元救助金以及嚴格條款後才流入當地市場。塞浦路斯除了需要實行緊縮政策之外,還需要關閉該國第二大的銀行並削減銀行存款,對少於 10 萬歐元以下的存款徵收 6.75% 稅、多於 10 萬歐元的存款需繳交 9.9% 稅。

在如此嚴峻的經濟形勢之下,包括中資在內的所有國外投資都毫無疑問地受到了塞浦路斯政府的熱烈歡迎。隨著投資的湧入,歐盟成員國都為塞浦路斯提供了有力的支持,包括其於 2019 年 4 月加入「一帶一路」倡議的決定。

這些投資都令塞浦路斯在中共因打壓香港、新疆及西藏而被各國批評侵犯人權的時候堅定地捍衛北京政府。據中國媒體報導,塞浦路斯外交大臣更於 2020 年 6 月時向其歐盟同事表示:「香港事務是中國內政,不應受到外國干預。」

2020 年 12 月,該國總統不僅在此於和中方交流時清楚表達其中立的立場,更加稱中國為「可信賴的好朋友」。中國外交部長王毅於本到訪該脫時亦重申了同樣的觀點,認同塞浦路斯嚴格遵守「一個中國」原則、推進於「一帶一路」倡議下進行國際合作、以及對歐盟發展歐中關係的支持。

與中國雄厚的經濟實力以及其於其他南歐國家所投資的資金相比,北京政府成功以一筆相對較小的投資換取了塞浦路斯這樣一個忠誠的盟友。

就歐盟對中國的策略而言,塞浦路斯與中國的密切關係代表了議事廳上一把鼓勵建立緊密中歐關係、鼓勵落實中歐投資協議、並不認同堅定支持香港的聲音。無疑當歐盟準備對中國官員進行制裁時,塞浦路斯將願意提出否決。


Analysis:Cypriot dependency on China hampers a coordinated E.U. response to Hong Kong

After two weeks of mass arrests in Hong Kong under the National Security Law, human rights activists last week were shocked to learn that extradition treaties between the People’s Republic of China and Cyprus and Belgium have quietly come into force, following Beijing’s decision to ratify them in October 2020 after a two-year delay.

Yet the muted response from both the Belgian and Cypriot Governments, who have shown publicly neither surprise nor an immediate desire to suspend these treaties appears once again to reaffirm the influence of Chinese state backed investment in Europe.

Taking the case of Cyprus, the small Mediterranean island has been awash with Chinese investment in its real-estate market since the announcement of a golden-visa scheme for investors back in 2013. Under the scheme, Chinese Communist Party apparatchiks and businessmen have been able to buy citizenship in exchange for investing 2 million euros in real-estate.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, between 2017 and 2019 482 Chinese nationals bought citizenship under the scheme. Notable individuals include Chen Anlin, a CPPCC member in the Huangpi district of Wuhan and a director at CECEP Central China Industry Development, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group, who was granted citizenship in 2018; Fu Zhengjun, who was a member of the municipal committee of the CPPCC for the city of Jinhua from 2011 to 2017, was granted a Cypriot passport in November 2017; and Zhao Zhenpeng, a member in the local CPPCC of Binzhou, obtained his citizenship in February 2019.

The success of the scheme saw it account for 5% of Cyprus’s GDP in 2017 and encouraged the Cypriot Government to relax the rules around ‘high risk’ individuals. This in turn led to the European Union pressuring Cyprus to finally scrap the scheme in October 2020.

Of course, not all Chinese state backed investment has come into the country through its golden visa scheme, even if it has certainly made Cyprus a more attractive place to invest. Lawrence Ho, the Hong Kong billionaire, announced in January 2018 a 100-million-euro investment in a five-star hotel and housing complex on the island as part of Europe’s biggest integrated casino resort. The Hong Kong based ‘China Glory National Investment’ also announced the 290 million euro purchase of the Venus Rock Golf Resort project in Ha Potami in November 2019, as part of a plan to invest 1.5 billion euros in Cyprus.

In just six years, Chinese foreign direct investment into Cyprus jumped from $94.95m a year in 2012 to $845m a year in 2018. Last year, Chinese investors pledged to increase investment in Cyprus to reach over $1 billion euros.

Chinese investment has not been limited to property and the tourism industry. In 2015, Yanggu Xiangguang Copper bought a 22% stake in copper mining company Atalaya Mining Plc for 96.2 million euros. Huawei has announced that Cyprus and alongside Greece will take the lead in its 5G rollout in Europe, with the company investing in telecoms infrastructure on the island. While a multinational conglomerate led by China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering signed a landmark deal in November 2019 to build a 290-million-euro terminal for the import of liquified natural gas for electricity generation.

Over the years Chinese state-owned enterprises have submitted a number of bids to buy a majority controlling stake in Hermes Airports that runs Larnaca International Airport and the Port of Limassol (Cyprus’s main port) to expand the Belt and Road infrastructure China controls in the Mediterranean as the gateway to Europe.

As with other parts of Southern Europe this large inflow of Chinese investment came after the Cypriot Government accepted in March 2013 strict terms set by the Troika (EU Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund) for a 10-billion-euro bailout. In the case of Cyprus, the price of the bailout aside from austerity, included shutting the country’s second largest bank and imposing an unprecedented haircut on bank deposits, with 6.75% levy for deposits under 100,000 euro and 9.9% levy for those with over 100,000 euro.

Following this dire economic situation, it is little wonder that Chinese investment alongside any foreign investment has been so warmly welcomed by the Cypriot Government. With the influx of investment buying strong support from the EU Member State, including Cyprus joining the Belt and Road Initiative in April 2019.

This investment has also seen Cyprus staunchly defend the Chinese Communist Party in a year when its gross human rights abuses have become frontpages news, not least as a result of the introduction of the draconian National Security Law in Hong Kong. The Cypriot Foreign Minister in June 2020, is alleged by Chinese media to have told EU colleagues when discussing the need for a robust response ‘that Hong Kong affairs are internal affairs of China and should not be interfered with by foreign countries.

Not simply advocating a position of neutrality when it comes to dealing with the Chinese Government, the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, in December 2020 described China as a “trusted” and “good friend”. This view was reiterated in a visit this month by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Cyprus, in which the Cypriot Foreign Minister reaffirmed Cyprus’s strict adherence to the one-China policy, its support for international cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, and its support of the EU in advancing its relations with China.

For what appears to be a small amount of money in terms of China’s burgeoning economy and a modest level of investment compared to the amount Cyprus’s neighbours in Southern Europe have received, the Chinese Communist Party has managed to co-opt and shore up a loyal ally in the Cypriot Government.

In terms of the EU’s approach to China, this has ensured a sympathetic voice in the room, championing a closer relationship and the signing of an EU-China Investment Partnership, cautioning against a firm and coordinated response to the crisis in Hong Kong, and no doubt a government willing to veto any attempts by the EU to sanction Chinese officials guilty of human rights abuses.

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