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

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

In at situations strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Common Hanscom Smith said electoral improvements to be certain only formally screened “patriots” ran the town had further more undermined its upcoming.

“The software of this (protection) law has been broad, crude and chilling,” Smith explained, noting its obscure definitions had fostered “dread and coercion” and dented the city’s strong rule of regulation traditions.

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“Correct patriotism is acquired by winning the allegiance of cost-free men and women, alternatively than futile efforts to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from above,” he explained.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of a higher degree of autonomy, together with independence of speech, less than a “a single place, two systems” formula. Critics of the nationwide safety legislation say authorities are utilizing it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly claimed the regulation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was critical to restore steadiness right after the town was rocked for months by at times violent anti-federal government and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative changes to reinforce establishment illustration, in aspect by restricting immediate illustration, had been also necessary to strengthen steadiness and “patriotic” governance, the two sets of officials have stated.

Responding to Reuters’ issues on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Protection Bureau stated Smith’s comments about the law were “unfair criticisms no further more from the fact”.

The legislation had safeguards safeguarding human rights, and any enforcement motion was centered on lawful proof and did not relate to a human being or group’s history, the spokesperson reported.

Smith, on the other hand, said officials “could not have it both of those methods”.

“You cannot have à la carte rule of legislation which applies in some instances but not others,” he told the business enterprise team.

“Making an attempt to sustain Hong Kong’s exclusive financial and economic units although degrading its political institutions is not a viable technique.”

Noting what he identified as the silencing of men and women and media, Smith also said regimen diplomatic attempts have been viewed as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened below the safety law. He did not give specifics.

“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 said.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Editing by Nick Macfie

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