Universal suffrage

US diplomat under fire for 'meddling'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 3:11am


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The Foreign Ministry's local office hit back yesterday at what it called "meddling" remarks made by the United States' most senior diplomat in the city.

A spokesman for the Office of the Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong said that constitutional development here is an internal matter, and no government or official should interfere with, give instruction on, or make reckless comments about, it. He was referring to comments made on Wednesday by outgoing US consul general Stephen Young as he addressed the American Chamber of Commerce.

Responding to media queries about universal suffrage in the city, Young said that it could be achieved in different ways, but that Hong Kong needed to stay true to its spirit.

Young said preparations to engage all parties in discussions on electoral reform should begin as early as possible, adding that the current debate on the subject was healthy. He also said the debate was testament to how "one country, two systems" had benefited Hong Kong, and allowed it to build its own character.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman said it had in the past lodged multiple "solemn representations" to the United States, requesting that it refrain from violating the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which forbids diplomats from interfering in the internal affairs of host states. It had also cautioned against making "irresponsible remarks" about the city's internal affairs, or doing anything that would damage the stability of Hong Kong or Sino-US ties.

He said: "The US side agreed with this. We had hoped that they would do as they said, and that they would stop giving irresponsible speeches and meddling in Hong Kong's internal affairs."

In 2011, Young was attacked by pro-Beijing newspapers for trying to influence Hong Kong affairs. However, Young maintained that the consulate was only seeking to understand, and not influence, local affairs. Young will be stepping down from his post this summer, and will be succeeded by Clifford Hart.