December 10, 2022

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

HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) – The major U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong on Monday urged China to ease political stress on the town, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping nationwide stability legislation threatened its purpose as an intercontinental organization hub.

In at times strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul General Hanscom Smith said electoral alterations to guarantee only formally screened “patriots” ran the city experienced even further undermined its long run.

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

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“Real patriotism is attained by successful the allegiance of free folks, rather than futile endeavours to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from earlier mentioned,” he stated.

The previous British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the ensure of a substantial degree of autonomy, including liberty of speech, under a “just one nation, two devices” components. Critics of the national safety legislation say authorities are working with it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have consistently claimed the law, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was crucial to restore security right after the city was rocked for months by occasionally violent anti-govt and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative changes to strengthen establishment representation, in section by limiting direct illustration, were being also necessary to improve balance and “patriotic” governance, both of those sets of officials have claimed.

Responding to Reuters’ queries on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Stability Bureau claimed Smith’s feedback relating to the legislation were being “unfair criticisms no further more from the truth of the matter”.

The regulation had safeguards safeguarding human legal rights, and any enforcement motion was based on lawful evidence and did not relate to a person or group’s qualifications, the spokesperson reported.

Smith, on the other hand, explained officials “could not have it both equally strategies”.

“You cannot have à la carte rule of legislation which applies in some circumstances but not other people,” he instructed the company team.

“Attempting to maintain Hong Kong’s one of a kind financial and monetary units when degrading its political establishments is not a practical strategy.”

Noting what he named the silencing of persons and media, Smith also stated regimen diplomatic efforts have been seen as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened underneath the safety regulation. He did not give specifics.

“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 stated.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Modifying by Nick Macfie

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