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

Lisa R. Parker

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HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) – The top U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong on Monday urged China to relieve political strain on the city, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping national stability regulation threatened its part as an worldwide business enterprise hub.

In at instances strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Basic Hanscom Smith said electoral improvements to make certain only officially screened “patriots” ran the city experienced even more undermined its upcoming.

“The software of this (security) regulation has been broad, crude and chilling,” Smith reported, noting its obscure definitions experienced fostered “panic and coercion” and dented the city’s robust rule of law traditions.

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“True patriotism is earned by winning the allegiance of no cost people, fairly than futile attempts to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from above,” he mentioned.

The previous British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the assure of a high diploma of autonomy, which include independence of speech, underneath a “just one nation, two systems” system. Critics of the national stability law say authorities are employing it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officers have repeatedly explained the regulation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was important to restore security following the metropolis was rocked for months by often violent anti-federal government and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative improvements to strengthen institution representation, in portion by restricting immediate illustration, had been also required to increase stability and “patriotic” governance, each sets of officials have said.

Responding to Reuters’ issues on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Security Bureau explained Smith’s feedback about the law have been “unfair criticisms no additional from the reality”.

The regulation had safeguards guarding human legal rights, and any enforcement action was based mostly on lawful evidence and did not relate to a particular person or group’s qualifications, the spokesperson mentioned.

Smith, on the other hand, explained officers “could not have it equally approaches”.

“You simply cannot have à la carte rule of legislation which applies in some instances but not other folks,” he instructed the small business group.

“Making an attempt to retain Hong Kong’s unique economic and monetary systems when degrading its political establishments is not a practical tactic.”

Noting what he known as the silencing of individuals and media, Smith also explained plan diplomatic initiatives were being seen as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened less than the stability law. He did not give details.

“An exchange 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 mentioned.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Modifying by Nick Macfie

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.

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