HONG KONG (Reuters) – The best U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong on Monday urged China to relieve political pressure on the metropolis, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping countrywide protection legislation threatened its function as an worldwide company hub.
In at times strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Typical Hanscom Smith mentioned electoral changes to be certain only formally screened “patriots” ran the metropolis had additional undermined its long run.
“The application of this (safety) regulation has been broad, crude and chilling,” Smith explained, noting its obscure definitions experienced fostered “worry and coercion” and dented the city’s robust rule of law traditions.
“Genuine patriotism is acquired by profitable the allegiance of free men and women, relatively than futile initiatives to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from over,” he reported.
The previous British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the assurance of a substantial diploma of autonomy, including freedom of speech, under a “just one place, two techniques” formula. Critics of the national safety legislation say authorities are using it to stifle dissent.
Chinese and Hong Kong officers have consistently said the law, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was essential to restore steadiness soon after the metropolis was rocked for months by sometimes violent anti-governing administration and anti-China protests in 2019.
Legislative changes to bolster establishment representation, in component by restricting immediate illustration, had been also required to strengthen steadiness and “patriotic” governance, both sets of officers have mentioned.
The Hong Kong federal government did not immediately react to Reuters’ requests for comment on Smith’s remarks.
Smith, however, stated officials “could not have it each approaches”.
“You can not have à la carte rule of law which applies in some circumstances but not other people,” he advised the business group.
“Trying to sustain Hong Kong’s distinctive financial and economic devices whilst degrading its political establishments is not a feasible tactic.”
Noting what he named the silencing of people today and media, Smith also explained regimen diplomatic endeavours were being witnessed as “interference” and some diplomats had been threatened beneath the stability law. He did not give facts.
“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 explained.
(Reporting By Greg Torode Editing by Nick Macfie)