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

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

In at times strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Standard Hanscom Smith stated electoral improvements to make certain only formally screened “patriots” ran the metropolis experienced additional undermined its potential.

“The application of this (safety) law has been wide, crude and chilling,” Smith claimed, noting its obscure definitions experienced fostered “anxiety and coercion” and dented the city’s robust rule of regulation traditions.

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“Legitimate patriotism is gained by successful the allegiance of absolutely free persons, rather 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 assurance of a substantial diploma of autonomy, including flexibility of speech, under a “a single nation, two methods” formula. Critics of the national security regulation say authorities are utilizing it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly explained the regulation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was essential to restore security right after the town was rocked for months by sometimes violent anti-govt and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative adjustments to fortify establishment representation, in portion by restricting immediate representation, have been also essential to make improvements to stability and “patriotic” governance, equally sets of officers have reported.

Responding to Reuters’ questions on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Safety Bureau mentioned Smith’s feedback regarding the regulation were “unfair criticisms no more from the truth”.

The regulation experienced safeguards defending human legal rights, and any enforcement action was based mostly on lawful evidence and did not relate to a individual or group’s track record, the spokesperson claimed.

Smith, nonetheless, claimed officials “could not have it both of those methods”.

“You cannot have à la carte rule of legislation which applies in some circumstances but not other individuals,” he advised the business enterprise group.

“Trying to sustain Hong Kong’s exceptional financial and economic programs while degrading its political institutions is not a feasible method.”

Noting what he termed the silencing of persons and media, Smith also claimed schedule diplomatic initiatives were being noticed as “interference” and some diplomats had been threatened less than the protection regulation. He did not give details.

“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 claimed.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Modifying by Nick Macfie

Our Specifications: The Thomson Reuters Trust Concepts.