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

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

In at instances strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul General Hanscom Smith mentioned electoral improvements to assure only formally screened “patriots” ran the metropolis experienced further undermined its foreseeable future.

“The application of this (security) law has been broad, crude and chilling,” Smith mentioned, noting its imprecise definitions experienced fostered “worry and coercion” and dented the city’s potent rule of law traditions.

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“Correct patriotism is acquired by successful the allegiance of free folks, somewhat than futile endeavours to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from previously mentioned,” he reported.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the assurance of a higher degree of autonomy, together with flexibility of speech, below a “one particular country, two systems” formula. Critics of the national stability legislation say authorities are making use of it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officers have regularly reported the legislation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was very important to restore steadiness following the city was rocked for months by in some cases violent anti-authorities and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative alterations to fortify institution representation, in portion by limiting immediate illustration, ended up also needed to boost balance and “patriotic” governance, both of those sets of officials have said.

Responding to Reuters’ thoughts on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Stability Bureau mentioned Smith’s feedback concerning the law were being “unfair criticisms no further from the truth of the matter”.

The legislation had safeguards guarding human legal rights, and any enforcement action was dependent on lawful evidence and did not relate to a individual or group’s background, the spokesperson claimed.

Smith, however, stated officers “could not have it each ways”.

“You simply cannot have à la carte rule of law which applies in some situations but not some others,” he informed the business team.

“Trying to retain Hong Kong’s special economic and economical programs although degrading its political institutions is not a viable approach.”

Noting what he referred to as the silencing of persons and media, Smith also mentioned regimen diplomatic efforts were viewed as “interference” and some diplomats had been threatened beneath the stability legislation. He did not give specifics.

“An exchange 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 said.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Editing by Nick Macfie

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