‘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 relieve political pressure on the metropolis, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping nationwide security law threatened its position as an worldwide business enterprise hub.

In at moments strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Normal Hanscom Smith mentioned electoral variations to ensure only officially screened “patriots” ran the town had more undermined its long run.

“The application of this (stability) legislation has been wide, crude and chilling,” Smith reported, noting its imprecise definitions had fostered “fear and coercion” and dented the city’s solid rule of legislation traditions.

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“Accurate patriotism is earned by successful the allegiance of no cost individuals, somewhat than futile attempts to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from higher than,” he mentioned.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the warranty of a significant diploma of autonomy, together with independence of speech, below a “one region, two systems” method. Critics of the countrywide safety law say authorities are using it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officers have continuously reported the regulation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was vital to restore balance just after the metropolis was rocked for months by in some cases violent anti-authorities and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative modifications to reinforce establishment illustration, in element by restricting immediate illustration, ended up also desired to increase balance and “patriotic” governance, both sets of officials have said.

Responding to Reuters’ thoughts on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Stability Bureau mentioned Smith’s opinions concerning the regulation ended up “unfair criticisms no even more from the real truth”.

The legislation experienced safeguards shielding human rights, and any enforcement motion was based mostly on lawful proof and did not relate to a particular person or group’s track record, the spokesperson stated.

Smith, nevertheless, said officials “could not have it both of those strategies”.

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

“Making an attempt to manage Hong Kong’s exclusive economic and money techniques when degrading its political institutions is not a viable strategy.”

Noting what he termed the silencing of individuals and media, Smith also stated regime diplomatic efforts were witnessed as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened beneath the security law. 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 stated.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Criteria: The Thomson Reuters Believe in Ideas.