Law a tragedy that will sap freedoms: US envoy

Top News | Wallis Wang 7 Jul 2020

The United States consul general in Hong Kong says the national security law is a tragedy as it will erode people's freedoms.

"Using the national security law to erode fundamental freedoms and to create an atmosphere of coercion and self-censorship is a tragedy for Hong Kong," Hanscom Smith told reporters after a radio show.

Smith said Hong Kong has been a successful economy because of its openness and transparency and it would be difficult for it to maintain its economic competitiveness if its autonomy continues to be eroded as fundamental freedoms are closely linked to financial success.

He said Washington has not ruled out further sanctions against China as it aims to pressure Beijing to rescind the security law, without going into details.

"We will continue to do everything we can to push Beijing to live up to the commitments that were made in the [Sino-British]Joint Declaration and to promote a high degree of autonomy here in Hong Kong," Smith said.

The consulate general will watch closely aspects like data security, intellectual property protection and the free flow of information to protect US businesses that operate in Hong Kong, he said.

On June 29, the United States eliminated Hong Kong's special trading status and restricted visas for a number of mainland officials for "undermining" the SAR's autonomy.

Beijing has accused Washington of meddling in Hong Kong affairs and warned it will take countermeasures. But Smith rejected the accusations, saying Hong Kong people are very capable of understanding their own interests.

"We support the right of peaceful protest, we oppose all forms of violence, and Hong Kong has its own institutions and structures for addressing these kinds of issues. They should be allowed to work," Smith said.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist and former legislator Nathan Law Kwun-chung called for international support to pressure Beijing and protect democracy in Hong Kong.

"We are grateful to the United Kingdom for offering sanctuary to three million Hongkongers. Now we need to see a unified and forceful response from all nations that respect democracy to contain the new Chinese expansionism - or Taiwan will be next," Law said in an article he wrote for the Daily Mail on Sunday.

Law fled Hong Kong last Tuesday, a day before the national security law came into effect, saying he would be targeted by the Communist Party.

"I had no wish to leave my home. I faced the choice of whether to stay silent in the face of autocracy or leave to continue the fight for freedom on the world stage," Law said in the article.

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