US Consul General Kurt Tong expresses concerns and assurances in farewell Hong Kong address
- In his last public speech, diplomat calls violence of recent protests ‘regrettable’
- Tong says he found Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s apology to be ‘very sincere’
The outgoing United States consul general has used a farewell address to express concern over the violence of recent protests in Hong Kong and offer assurances to the city’s embattled leader.
“The US view is that the right for freedom of expression is most effective and proper when it’s exercised peacefully,” Tong said after attending a US Independence Day celebration. “I think it’s regrettable that it took place.”
Tong, however, said he personally heard Lam’s reflection and public apology and found her remarks to be “very sincere”.
“I must say this is not the first time in history that a fundamentally honourable person has made a serious mistake in governance,” Tong said. “I think the best thing going forward is to communicate sincerely and for everyone to talk to one another.”
Nevertheless, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said no country could interfere with the domestic affairs of Hong Kong and China.
“It was hypocritical and a double standard for them to say they advocate the rights of peaceful protests,” he said.
Tong said he “absolutely disagreed” with Beijing’s remarks. He said the US had a right to express concerns on “politics, governance or economic policies”, given its investments and citizens in Hong Kong.
Tong repeatedly spoke of the confidence he had in Hong Kong, even though the city had gone through a tough few months.
“Mistakes were made, there were conflicts, but the intention was good,” Tong said in his speech, without directly referring to the protests.
The act was a “valuable, flexible legal framework and creates lots of opportunity”, Tong said.
“So I don’t see any need to change that. It’s a good way of organising the relationship, given the reality of ‘one country, two systems’,” he said, referring to China’s governing principle over Hong Kong.