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

HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) – The top U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong on Monday urged China to simplicity political tension on the city, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping nationwide protection law threatened its function as an intercontinental company hub.

In at situations strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul General Hanscom Smith mentioned electoral adjustments to ensure only formally screened “patriots” ran the metropolis had further more undermined its upcoming.

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

Sign-up now for Absolutely free unlimited access to Reuters.com

“Correct patriotism is acquired by successful the allegiance of absolutely free men and women, relatively than futile endeavours to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from higher than,” he stated.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the warranty of a substantial degree of autonomy, including freedom of speech, below a “a person country, two devices” formulation. Critics of the national protection legislation say authorities are using it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have frequently reported the legislation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was critical to restore balance right after the city was rocked for months by occasionally violent anti-governing administration and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative changes to reinforce establishment illustration, in element by limiting immediate representation, were being also necessary to increase steadiness and “patriotic” governance, both equally sets of officers have claimed.

Responding to Reuters’ questions on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Stability Bureau mentioned Smith’s comments with regards to the regulation ended up “unfair criticisms no additional from the truth”.

The law experienced safeguards guarding human legal rights, and any enforcement action was based mostly on lawful proof and did not relate to a human being or group’s track record, the spokesperson reported.

Smith, however, stated officers “could not have it the two strategies”.

“You just can’t have à la carte rule of legislation which applies in some cases but not many others,” he explained to the business enterprise group.

“Trying to preserve Hong Kong’s distinctive financial and economic techniques when degrading its political institutions is not a feasible approach.”

Noting what he known as the silencing of people and media, Smith also mentioned program diplomatic attempts have been viewed as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened beneath the safety legislation. He did not give facts.

“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.

Sign up now for Absolutely free unrestricted access to Reuters.com

Reporting By Greg Torode Modifying by Nick Macfie

Our Criteria: The Thomson Reuters Have confidence in Rules.