Top US diplomat in Hong Kong met Beijing leader on city affairs amid furore over Huawei’s Sabrina Meng Wanzhou

  • Kurt Tong met Zhang Xiaoming at a sensitive time
  • Also coincided with a US delegation urging Hong Kong officials to help more with sanctions against North Korea and Iran
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 10:58pm

The United States’ top diplomat in Hong Kong met a senior Beijing official overseeing the city last Friday, as the diplomatic furore over the arrest of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou was erupting.

US Consul General Kurt Tong’s discussions with Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), were confirmed by the office on Tuesday.

They also coincided with a US delegation finishing a three-day visit to Hong Kong, during which it urged local officials to “devote additional resources” to enforcing international sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

The office only published a picture of the meeting on its website on Tuesday, with the caption: “Director Zhang met, as requested, with delegation led by US Consul General Kurt Tong.”

City lawmakers noted the trip came on the heels of Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technology executive Meng, at the request of the United States, on December 1. Meng, who faces extradition to the US, has been accused of misrepresenting Huawei’s ties to a Hong Kong shell company that sold telecoms equipment to Iran, in contravention of sanctions.

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US consulate spokeswoman Darragh Paradiso said Tong and Zhang “discussed recent developments in Hong Kong and Macau”, and US contributions to their success.

The Post has learned the meeting was a regular visit by the consulate.

According to the HKMAO, Tong previously met Zhang in Beijing in early February. That was when the US started to mull a 10 per cent tariff on Chinese aluminium imports, which also affected Hong Kong, and a 25 per cent tariff on steel.

The latest discussions came similarly against the backdrop of the US-China trade war, which is still rumbling on. It was also the pair’s first meeting since the unprecedented ban of separatist group the Hong Kong National Party and the city’s refusal of work and tourist visas for British journalist Victor Mallet – both decisions the US voiced concerns about.

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Accountancy lawmaker Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong noted the meeting came at a “sensitive time”, soon after Meng was arrested in Canada and became the subject of extradition proceedings.

But Leung believed the meeting would not have touched on the case specifically, and would only have focused on Hong Kong’s duty to enforce international sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

Leung said he had a meeting with Tong next week, where he was prepared explain to the US diplomat that Hong Kong already has laws in place to enforce international sanctions, but there could be practical difficulties in enforcing them.

Beijing loyalist Chan Wing-kee, a former standing committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top consultative body, said the timing of the meeting was “tricky”, but would not speculate on the agenda.

“Hong Kong is inevitably affected by the trade war. The US would turn the city into a pawn to attack China,” he said.

Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung