About 20% of Americans in Hong Kong have left for various reasons in the past two years, the US consul general in the semi-autonomous Chinese city said, drawing strong criticism from Beijing for allegedly interfering in its affairs.
Greg May cited the departure of nearly 15,000 Americans as one of the consequences, saying Hong Kong’s strict anti-COVID-19 measures and “shrinking freedoms” have “clearly affected the city and the people in it”. affected.” He said that about 70,000 Americans and 1,300 American companies are currently present in Hong Kong.
In a video address to the US Center for Strategic and International Studies late Wednesday, May also said concerns remain over Hong Kong’s “reputation as a business center that relies on international standards and the rule of law.”
Among those concerns was an interpretation last month by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, that seeks to “undermine the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary system by expanding the authority of Hong Kong’s executive branch to make decisions affecting matters without judicial oversight.” may weaken further. I said.
The Standing Committee ruled that Hong Kong courts need the approval of the territory’s chief executive or a separate committee to allow foreign lawyers to participate in national security trials.
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It came as Hong Kong leader John Lee, who is subject to US sanctions, called on Beijing to block a decision that could block jailed pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai from hiring a British lawyer.
Lai was arrested in 2020 during a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement, prompting Beijing to impose a sweeping national security law on the city. He is fighting charges of collusion and could face life in prison if convicted.
May said that in light of the Standing Committee’s decision and other developments, “companies should be aware that the risks they face in mainland China are now increasingly present here in Hong Kong.”
“National security legislation and actions taken by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities could negatively impact the company’s staff, finances, legal compliance reputation and operations,” he said.
Hong Kong’s reputation as an open global financial center could be further damaged if “the best and brightest” leave the city, he said, referring to the decision by many Hong Kong citizens to go abroad after 2020.
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May said, the city’s government should “stop its subversion of Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, autonomy and rule of law”, release those unjustly held and “respect human rights for all”.
In a response, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Office in Hong Kong said May had “slandered the rule of law and freedom in Hong Kong” and “deliberately maligned Hong Kong’s business environment.”
“The fundamental principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of any place under international law and international relations was recklessly trampled on,” a statement posted online said.
“He supported those who opposed China and disrupted Hong Kong, and also spoke poorly about Hong Kong’s development prospects,” the statement said.
The US and other major democracies have been critical of China’s crackdown on political freedoms in the former British colony, which was handed back to China by Beijing in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework with a promise to keep Western-style freedoms went. ,
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Hong Kong is one of the issues that have sent ties between Beijing and Washington to their lowest level in years, including over technology and trade, human rights, threats against Taiwan and China’s claims in the South China Sea.
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