HONG KONG (Reuters) – The prime U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong on Monday urged China to simplicity political pressure on the city, warning that the “crude and chilling” use of a sweeping countrywide protection legislation threatened its role as an intercontinental small business hub.

In at instances strongly worded farewell remarks to the American Chamber of Commerce, outgoing U.S. Consul Common Hanscom Smith said electoral variations to be certain only formally screened “patriots” ran the city had additional undermined its long run.

“The software of this (stability) law has been wide, crude and chilling,” Smith mentioned, noting its obscure definitions had fostered “panic and coercion” and dented the city’s robust rule of legislation traditions.

“Accurate patriotism is gained by winning the allegiance of cost-free individuals, somewhat than futile initiatives to legislate ‘patriotism’ and loyalty from above,” he reported.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the assure of a higher degree of autonomy, together with freedom of speech, below a “a single nation, two units” formulation. Critics of the nationwide security regulation say authorities are using it to stifle dissent.

Chinese and Hong Kong officers have continuously claimed the regulation, imposed by Beijing in 2020, was vital to restore balance following the town was rocked for months by often violent anti-federal government and anti-China protests in 2019.

Legislative changes to fortify establishment representation, in section by limiting immediate representation, ended up also desired to improve security and “patriotic” governance, both sets of officials have stated.

The Hong Kong federal government did not right away reply to Reuters’ requests for remark on Smith’s remarks.

Smith, on the other hand, mentioned officers “could not have it both methods”.

“You can’t have à la carte rule of legislation which applies in some circumstances but not other people,” he told the enterprise group.

“Making an attempt to keep Hong Kong’s exclusive economic and economical methods though degrading its political institutions is not a feasible method.”

Noting what he termed the silencing of persons and media, Smith also mentioned regime diplomatic attempts were noticed as “interference” and some diplomats had been threatened below the stability law. He did not give particulars.

“An exchange 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 reported.

(Reporting By Greg Torode Modifying by Nick Macfie)