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

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

In at times strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Common Hanscom Smith stated electoral changes to make sure only formally screened “patriots” ran the city experienced further more undermined its potential.

“The software of this (security) law has been wide, crude and chilling,” Smith reported, noting its imprecise definitions had fostered “dread and coercion” and dented the city’s sturdy rule of legislation traditions.

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“Correct patriotism is earned by profitable the allegiance of no cost people today, fairly than futile initiatives to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from higher than,” he reported.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of a large degree of autonomy, which include independence of speech, underneath a “just one nation, two devices” components. Critics of the countrywide protection regulation say authorities are working with it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have continuously mentioned the regulation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was critical to restore balance following the town was rocked for months by at times violent anti-federal government and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative adjustments to reinforce institution illustration, in component by restricting immediate illustration, were being also needed to increase steadiness and “patriotic” governance, both equally sets of officers have said.

Responding to Reuters’ concerns on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Safety Bureau reported Smith’s opinions pertaining to the legislation ended up “unfair criticisms no additional from the fact”.

The law experienced safeguards shielding human rights, and any enforcement motion was primarily based on lawful proof and did not relate to a person or group’s qualifications, the spokesperson said.

Smith, having said that, stated officials “could not have it both techniques”.

“You simply cannot have à la carte rule of legislation which applies in some instances but not other folks,” he instructed the business enterprise group.

“Trying to keep Hong Kong’s exclusive financial and monetary programs even though degrading its political institutions is not a feasible approach.”

Noting what he known as the silencing of folks and media, Smith also stated regime diplomatic initiatives ended up witnessed as “interference” and some diplomats had been threatened underneath the safety regulation. He did not give details.

“An trade 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 claimed.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Editing by Nick Macfie

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