June 7, 2023


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‘Chilling’ use of security law threatening Hong Kong’s finance hub status, says U.S. envoy

HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) – The major U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong on Monday urged China to relieve political tension on the city, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping countrywide security law threatened its purpose as an global company hub.

In at times strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul General Hanscom Smith reported electoral changes to be certain only officially screened “patriots” ran the metropolis had even more undermined its potential.

“The application of this (security) law has been broad, crude and chilling,” Smith claimed, noting its vague definitions had fostered “fear and coercion” and dented the city’s solid rule of regulation traditions.

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“Genuine patriotism is earned by winning the allegiance of absolutely free men and women, relatively than futile initiatives to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from previously mentioned,” he stated.

The previous British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the assure of a higher diploma of autonomy, including independence of speech, beneath a “a person country, two systems” formula. Critics of the countrywide stability law say authorities are utilizing it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officers have regularly said the law, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was crucial to restore security after the city was rocked for months by in some cases violent anti-governing administration and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative adjustments to improve establishment representation, in component by restricting direct representation, had been also needed to make improvements to security and “patriotic” governance, both equally sets of officials have claimed.

Responding to Reuters’ queries on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Protection Bureau reported Smith’s comments with regards to the law had been “unfair criticisms no even further from the reality”.

The law experienced safeguards shielding human rights, and any enforcement action was dependent on lawful evidence and did not relate to a particular person or group’s track record, the spokesperson mentioned.

Smith, even so, claimed officials “could not have it both approaches”.

“You can’t have à la carte rule of regulation which applies in some cases but not other folks,” he informed the small business team.

“Making an attempt to retain Hong Kong’s distinctive financial and fiscal techniques though degrading its political establishments is not a viable system.”

Noting what he termed the silencing of folks and media, Smith also said regimen diplomatic endeavours ended up witnessed as “interference” and some diplomats had been threatened under the protection law. He did not give details.

“An exchange of views is not collusion… A handshake is not ‘a black hand’. Hong Kong has succeeded when it embraces openness and transparency, not ideological paranoia and groupthink,” Smith stated.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Editing by Nick Macfie

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