Pull together and tackle the challenges ahead, that’s the message the departing US consul general has for Hongkongers. Clifford Hart made the call yesterday in a wide-ranging interview that was broadcast live on Facebook in the run-up to the end of his tenure as Washington’s top man in the city. The social media savvy diplomat also revealed in answers to internet users that he will take up a post in the private sector after stepping down as envoy to Hong Kong and Macau later this month. During a 19-minute session, Hart described Hong Kong as a “modern, affluent, first world, post-industrial society”. He said the city is facing a range of challenges that similar societies elsewhere are also having to deal with. “There is a lot of debate here in Hong Kong … I’d just like to highlight how important it is for all Hongkongers to pull together for the welfare of this remarkable place,” Hart said. “It’s really important that as the debate goes forward – a very heartfelt debate – that the people of Hong Kong will approach it with a results-oriented, civil and peaceful spirit.” However the Cantonese speaker did not go as far as saying what the nature of the debate is. In the past few years, debate over the political future of the city has been heating up, with pro-democracy activists and other groups calling for it to be granted greater autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula. The contentious issue of how the city’s top official should be elected next year triggered the 79-day Occupy protests in 2014 with activists describing the framework handed down by Beijing as too restrictive. “[The] exercise of wisdom, self-restraint and tolerance – all these things are going to be really important as Hongkongers work with each other, their government and with the central government for a better future,” Hart said. He has served as the US consul general to Hong Kong and Macau since 2013 and will be succeeded by Kurt Tong, the top economic official at the State Department, in August. “I’ve been a diplomat for 33 years. I’ve really been honoured to serve my country,” Hart said. Throughout his three-year tenure in the city, he has frequently engaged the public on social media, making him one of its most popular diplomats. He is affectionately known as “Clifford BB” among locals, a nickname which he said he is “grateful” for. Netizens posed more than 200 questions to Hart, although not all of them received answers. Among those that went unanswered were a request for him to comment on the case of the missing Causeway Bay booksellers and whether he supports Hong Kong independence. Previously, Hart held several postings in the Greater China region and represented the US in six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme.