(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)
HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) – The Hong Kong government’s plans to restrict access to its company registry are moving forward. The measures prohibit all groups except certain groups, such as due diligence experts, from accessing details of directors and private companies, removing contact details and partially obscuring identity numbers. In one experiment, independent investor David Webb searched the registry and found 16 directors with identical names sharing visible ID numbers with at least one namesake. here.
If officials simply wanted to protect the privacy of individuals, they could drop the residential address requirement for a business or a correspondence address, as Companies House in London is doing. As it stands, the changes will make the database virtually useless for anyone without full access, a group that will include small business owners and journalists. Hong Kong’s international standing is already suffering as Beijing tightens its grip. As governments around the world push for transparency in low-tax jurisdictions, it seems fishy. (By Jennifer Hughes)
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