Retiring US Consul-General Richard Mueller has warned China not to meddle in Hong Kong affairs if Washington is to maintain a special relationship with the territory. The United States plans to treat Hong Kong differently from China after 1997 by supporting it as a separate member of the World Trade Organisation and the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, while also granting it trade and aviation concessions. But Mr Mueller, in his last major address before standing down on July 11, said: 'We can do so only as long as Hong Kong remains a genuinely separate entity, distinct from the rest of China.' While remaining 'fundamentally positive' about Hong Kong's prospects, he said it would depend on its citizens being active in politics and civic affairs so that they had a say in running the territory. He encouraged residents and local officials to exercise the high degree of autonomy promised by China and ensure the mainland exercised appropriate restraint in those areas reserved for Hong Kong. Mr Mueller said the US was willing to support 'one country, two systems' only if there was autonomy for Hong Kong. 'Basically that means Hong Kong officials making the decisions in areas that have been reserved to them.' He welcomed an assurance, made by Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Lu Ping LP , that his department would act to prevent interference by other mainland bodies in the SAR government. Mr Mueller said local-level officials and business people in China would have to respect arrangements that gave Hong Kong responsibility for its own affairs in all areas except foreign affairs and defence. Mr Mueller, who is taking leave of absence from the State Department, will become director of the Asia Society's centre in Hong Kong.