‘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 ease political strain on the town, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping nationwide stability law threatened its position as an worldwide business hub.

In at occasions strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Normal Hanscom Smith claimed electoral adjustments to make sure only formally screened “patriots” ran the city experienced further undermined its potential.

“The application of this (stability) regulation has been broad, crude and chilling,” Smith stated, noting its vague definitions experienced fostered “anxiety and coercion” and dented the city’s potent rule of regulation traditions.

Sign up now for Free of charge endless accessibility to Reuters.com

“Accurate patriotism is attained by successful the allegiance of free people, alternatively than futile endeavours to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from above,” he reported.

The previous British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of a superior degree of autonomy, together with freedom of speech, below a “one particular place, two devices” formula. Critics of the countrywide stability legislation say authorities are using it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly claimed the law, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was crucial to restore steadiness immediately after the metropolis was rocked for months by in some cases violent anti-government and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative adjustments to strengthen institution illustration, in aspect by limiting direct illustration, had been also needed to strengthen stability and “patriotic” governance, both of those sets of officers have said.

Responding to Reuters’ concerns on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Protection Bureau mentioned Smith’s opinions about the law have been “unfair criticisms no further more from the real truth”.

The law had safeguards guarding human legal rights, and any enforcement motion was primarily based on lawful evidence and did not relate to a man or woman or group’s track record, the spokesperson stated.

Smith, on the other hand, mentioned officials “could not have it each approaches”.

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

“Making an attempt to preserve Hong Kong’s distinctive financial and economical units whilst degrading its political institutions is not a viable system.”

Noting what he known as the silencing of folks and media, Smith also reported program diplomatic endeavours have been found as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened underneath the security legislation. 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 explained.

Sign up now for Absolutely free endless obtain to Reuters.com

Reporting By Greg Torode Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Expectations: The Thomson Reuters Have faith in Ideas.