Top US envoy to Hong Kong expresses confidence in city’s ‘boundless’ future

US Consul General Kurt Tong says Hong Kong will continue to succeed by taking advantage of its open society, transparent governance, freedom of expression and rule of law

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 9:06am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 9:06am

The top US envoy to Hong Kong expressed confidence in the city’s “boundless” future, so long as its people are “allowed to chart their own path”.

US Consul General Kurt Tong said that Hong Kong, which marked the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule last Saturday, would continue to succeed if it took advantage of its open society, transparent governance, freedom of expression and rule of law.

The comments were made in a speech for a reception in Hong Kong on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of Independence Day in the US.

Though Washington had in recent weeks made statements highlighting its concerns about the perceived abridgement of the “high degree of autonomy” Hong Kong had been promised by Beijing, Tong had tried to paint a more rosy picture about Hong Kong’s future development.

“Although we should not ignore the challenges facing Hong Kong, I think that we should all continue to be very confident in Hong Kong’s future,” Tong said.

“By taking advantage of its open society, its transparent governance and its freedom of expression – not to mention its well-respected legal system and rule of law – it is clear to us Americans that Hong Kong will continue to succeed.

“For a great people, in a great city, allowed to chart their own path, I believe the future is boundless.”

The consul general said the people of the US and the people of Hong Kong both cherished an open society, the rule of law, economic freedom and freedom of expression.

“Hong Kong also serves as a positive example to the entire Asia-Pacific region about what can be achieved by an open and fair society.”

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Tong, who was posted to Hong Kong last August, also said he had identified technology and research, transportation, smart cities development, higher education and tourism as areas where the US and Hong Kong could cooperate more closely.

The US is Hong Kong’s second largest trade partner. In 2016, the total trade value amounted to HK$530.7 billion. Last year, Hong Kong was visited by more than 110,000 American tourists, up 9.8 per cent from 2015.

“Certainly it is clear that American business loves Hong Kong, which is why there are now more than 1,400 US businesses operating here,” Tong noted, adding that over 100,000 Hongkongers travelled to the US each year.

There are about 15,000 American citizens living in Hong Kong, according to the Hong Kong government’s 2016 by-census.

Asked about being seen as an “external force” in the city during an earlier interview with the Post, Tong had rejected accusations of foreign interference, saying that “stating an opinion about the United States’ aspirations for Hong Kong is not interfering in Hong Kong’s domestic political affairs”.