Politicians in Washington were increasingly blurring the distinction between Hong Kong and the mainland, Michael Klosson said as he defended Li Ka-shing's companies against recent attacks. He was commenting on allegations made by the Republican Party's right wing that Hutchison Whampoa's port operations on the Panama Canal would hand China control over the strategically important waterway. 'This is symptomatic of an unfortunate trend in Washington which tends to blur the distinction between Hong Kong and China.' His defence of Mr Li's companies followed the line laid down by administration officials in Washington. But Mr Klosson went further for his Hong Kong audience by blaming the attack on the political atmosphere ahead of the presidential election next year. 'I think the first thing to keep in mind is that when the US moves towards even-numbered years a different kind of politics takes over, so put that around everything you hear coming out of Washington these days.' There was no evidence in public records that the mainland controlled or dominated Hutchison Whampoa. 'We see no basis to this. It's of concern to me and what I think the administration in Washington needs to do is explain itself and the record clearly and then continue the policy that we have in place which is to treat Hong Kong differently from China.' More Congress members should visit Hong Kong, he said, and five delegations of its staff had come during the summer. He urged businessmen and officials to invite their US counterparts.