Top US diplomat in Hong Kong Kurt Tong says congressional report calling for reassessment of city’s trade status ‘certainly deserves careful review’
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam earlier called allegations of Beijing’s ‘encroachment’ on city in report unfounded
- Tong says international community is focused on issues relating to ‘one country, two systems’ principle
The United States’ top diplomat in Hong Kong said on Friday a congressional report calling for a reassessment of the city’s special trade status given Beijing’s “encroachment” on the political system and rule of law “certainly deserved careful review”.
US Consul General Kurt Tong’s comments came a day after Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the allegations carried in the report were unfounded and warned any changes to US trade policy on the city would be detrimental to both sides.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission report, released on Wednesday, recommended reviewing the arrangement to treat Hong Kong and mainland China as separate customs areas in the export of technology with civilian and military applications.
The arrangement is stipulated in the US’s Hong Kong Policy Act, under which tariffs against the mainland are not automatically applied to the city.
Tong said the report was compiled by a group of experts and that the annual review on US-China relations received congressional funding.
Members of the group, comprising economists and security experts, were nominated by leaders of both the Republican and Democratic parties to carry out the review.
“Clearly the Hong Kong part of the report reflects the fact that the international community is focused on issues relating to ‘one country, two systems’ and maintaining a high degree of autonomy,” Tong said, referring to the principle under which Beijing governs Hong Kong.
He said the “one country, two systems” principle was important to Hong Kong, US interests in the city, “and the benefit that the rest of China received from Hong Kong”.
The US government would look forward to continuing conversations with the Hong Kong government on the two systems framework and other policy issues, he added.
Lam on Thursday expressed regret that the report viewed relations between Hong Kong and the mainland through “coloured lens”. She stressed that the US enjoyed an annual US$34.5 billion trade surplus with the city, the highest the country had with any economy.
In a joint statement on Friday, 24 pan-democrat lawmakers in Hong Kong said the government should not simply attack the report, but take active steps to prevent any deterioration of “one country, two systems” and lobby the US government.
They said examples given in the report – including the ban on a separatist party and the denial of a work visa for veteran British journalist Victor Mallet – did raise legitimate concerns.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king, however, criticised the democrats for being biased against China, and supporting the report. Lee said she would resolutely support the government to fight against the looming US-China trade war.
Mallet, who was denied a renewal of his visa in October, was also barred from entering the city last week as a visitor, following nearly four hour of questioning by immigration officers.
The unprecedented move to bar him was widely seen as being linked to his role as host of a controversial talk by separatist Andy Chan Ho-tin at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in August.