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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 relieve political stress on the town, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping countrywide protection regulation threatened its job as an global small business hub.

In at occasions strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Common Hanscom Smith said electoral changes to ensure only formally screened “patriots” ran the town experienced further undermined its foreseeable future.

“The application of this (safety) law has been broad, crude and chilling,” Smith claimed, noting its vague definitions experienced fostered “dread and coercion” and dented the city’s strong rule of legislation traditions.

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“True patriotism is attained by profitable the allegiance of absolutely free people, fairly than futile attempts to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from earlier mentioned,” he explained.

The previous British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the assure of a higher diploma of autonomy, such as liberty of speech, underneath a “just one place, two devices” formulation. Critics of the nationwide stability regulation say authorities are using it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have regularly claimed the regulation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was vital to restore steadiness just after the metropolis was rocked for months by often violent anti-authorities and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative improvements to strengthen institution illustration, in section by limiting direct illustration, ended up also wanted to strengthen stability and “patriotic” governance, both of those sets of officers have explained.

Responding to Reuters’ concerns on Monday, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government’s Safety Bureau said Smith’s remarks regarding the regulation were “unfair criticisms no more from the truth of the matter”.

The legislation experienced safeguards defending human legal rights, and any enforcement action was primarily based on lawful proof and did not relate to a human being or group’s qualifications, the spokesperson claimed.

Smith, even so, explained officers “could not have it equally methods”.

“You just can’t have à la carte rule of regulation which applies in some circumstances but not others,” he informed the business team.

“Trying to sustain Hong Kong’s exceptional economic and monetary programs though degrading its political establishments is not a practical strategy.”

Noting what he identified as the silencing of men and women and media, Smith also claimed regime diplomatic attempts were being noticed as “interference” and some diplomats experienced been threatened underneath the safety legislation. He did not give particulars.

“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 claimed.

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Reporting By Greg Torode Modifying by Nick Macfie

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Rely on Ideas.