Hong Kong's position as China's most international city depends on maintaining ties with other countries and other cultures. This characteristic has been recognised and reflected in the Basic Law, with a specific chapter that enables our city to continue developing international links after the handover. It is promoted overseas and Hong Kong is regularly the venue for international events. Foreign businesses, chambers of commerce and consulates maintain close ties with the community to better understand Hong Kong and to exchange ideas and information. Consulates routinely receive updates from officials, businessmen, politicians and others. The exchanges, often informal, have served our interests well over the years. But concerns have been raised as a result of WikiLeaks releasing cables which gave an insight into the US government's monitoring of affairs here through discussions held by the consulate. According to the cables, former Consul General James Cunningham discussed universal suffrage with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2005. The consulate also had contact with Court of Final Appeal judges on the impact of Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law in 1999 years after the event and also asked about outgoing Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying's intention to stand for chief executive. The disclosure prompted the Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong to criticise the consulate of meddling in China's internal affairs. Beijing places much importance on states not interfering in the affairs of others. Moreover, Article 66 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations states diplomats have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of the receiving state. But what constitutes interference is open to interpretation. The cables suggest the US was only seeking the views of officials and some public figures on issues of public concern. If that is all, it is difficult to define it as interference. Article 5 of the Convention also states that the functions of consulates include ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the commercial, economic, cultural and scientific life of the receiving state, and reporting them back home. Diplomats around the world, including those from China, regard the gathering of information with which to assess conditions in a country as part of their responsibilities. This is a means by which opinions can be exchanged and understanding between states furthered. It is not the same as espionage. It is not clear whether Beijing had some deeper concern which was not expressed in its statement about the WikiLeaks cables. But it is to be hoped that exchanges of views between diplomats, no matter where they come from, and members of our community will continue.