New US consul general Clifford Hart praises Hong Kong's rule of law
Veteran diplomat Clifford Hart takes office as the top US representative here and in Macau
The new United States consul general praised Hong Kong's rule of law and freedoms as the key reasons more than 60,000 Americans call the city home, and says he looks forward to Hongkongers' move towards "genuine democratic suffrage".
A veteran diplomat with 30 years' experience including five postings in China, Clifford Hart arrived on Tuesday to take office.
"Respect for the rule of law and globally recognised fundamental freedoms underpin Hong Kong's status as 'Asia's World City', and both are vital for prosperity and stability for this thoroughly international, thoroughly Chinese society," Hart said yesterday.
The Putonghua-speaking diplomat replaces Stephen Young, who vacated the post last month after a three-year stint as the country's top representative in Hong Kong and Macau.
"Since my first visit nearly 30 years ago, Hong Kong and Macau have fascinated me with their open, law-based societies, dynamism, and exquisite integration of modernity and traditional Chinese culture," Hart said.
"I am honoured I will be here for the next phase of Hong Kong's democratic development and progress towards genuine universal suffrage under the 'one country, two systems' framework."
Hart is expected to meet key government and business leaders in his first few weeks in the city, with one of his top priorities likely to be the thorny issue of US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who was allowed to leave Hong Kong in June despite a Washington request to arrest him on espionage charges.
The failed extradition request strained relations between Hong Kong and the US, which typically share a close and co-operative bond.
On Macau, Hart said it was a unique region, rich with history, that had seen "rapid economic development in recent years" with US companies playing a key role in the rise of the gambling enclave.
"I intend to continue to work with the government and people of Macau as the region diversifies its economy and overcomes the challenges brought on by economic success," he said.
Hart's most recent post was as a special envoy in six-party talks with North Korea over its nuclear plans.
Previously, he has worked as the US National Security Council's director for China and Taiwan, as well as in the Soviet Union and Iraq.
He holds a master's degree from the University of Virginia.