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

HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) – The best U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong on Monday urged China to relieve political stress on the metropolis, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping nationwide safety law threatened its role as an international business hub.

In at times strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Common Hanscom Smith claimed electoral variations to be certain only officially screened “patriots” ran the metropolis experienced even further undermined its long term.

“The software of this (stability) law has been wide, crude and chilling,” Smith mentioned, noting its vague definitions had fostered “panic and coercion” and dented the city’s solid rule of legislation traditions.

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“Legitimate patriotism is gained by winning the allegiance of no cost people, instead than futile endeavours to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from above,” he said.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of a large diploma of autonomy, like liberty of speech, underneath a “one particular state, two units” method. Critics of the nationwide stability legislation say authorities are employing it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officers have repeatedly explained the legislation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was crucial to restore balance immediately after the metropolis was rocked for months by in some cases violent anti-authorities and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative variations to strengthen institution representation, in section by limiting direct representation, were being also essential to increase stability and “patriotic” governance, equally sets of officers have reported.

Responding to Reuters’ questions on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Security Bureau said Smith’s comments about the legislation were “unfair criticisms no even further from the truth”.

The regulation had safeguards preserving human rights, and any enforcement action was centered on lawful evidence and did not relate to a person or group’s qualifications, the spokesperson said.

Smith, even so, reported officers “could not have it each strategies”.

“You cannot have à la carte rule of law which applies in some occasions but not other people,” he advised the company team.

“Making an attempt to preserve Hong Kong’s unique financial and financial methods although degrading its political institutions is not a feasible approach.”

Noting what he termed the silencing of people and media, Smith also reported routine diplomatic attempts ended up found as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened under the safety legislation. He did not give particulars.

“An trade of sights 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 Enhancing by Nick Macfie

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