The United States consulate in Hong Kong on Tuesday slammed Beijing’s new restrictions on the activities of America’s top representative in the city, saying they disregarded individual freedoms and diplomatic norms.
The latest rule requires the consul general, currently Hanscom Smith, to obtain approval from Beijing’s foreign ministry before meeting with Hong Kong government officials or personnel from education institutions and societies.
Coming in the wake of Washington’s decision early last month to limit the movement of Chinese envoys in the US, the curbs also appeared to cover the US envoy’s meetings with representatives of Hong Kong’s political parties.
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“The United States objects to new restrictions imposed by the [People’s Republic of China] on the official meetings of the US consul general in Hong Kong,” the statement issued on Tuesday morning read.
It said Washington was forced to introduce its own restrictions on Chinese diplomats working in the US following years of Beijing imposing barriers on its representatives in mainland China.
The consulate highlighted that the US restrictions only targeted Chinese diplomats, with staff from the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices in the United States still free to organise meetings without having to seek approval.
“The retaliatory inclusion of the US consulate general in Hong Kong in recent restrictions issued by the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) – as well as reports that the PRC instructed the Hong Kong government not to meet American diplomats – show the PRC’s disregard for its own promises to the people of Hong Kong, individual freedoms and diplomatic norms,” the consulate said.
“It also points to Beijing’s failure to live up to its ‘one country, two systems’ commitment. Hong Kong has benefited for years from open discourse and the free exchange of ideas. Beijing’s effort to limit dialogue is harmful to all sides.”
The statement revealed that the new requirement to seek permission for meetings would only apply to the consul general in Hong Kong and not other US personnel, based on the diplomatic note received by the US embassy in Beijing.
It was understood the US consulate had invited at least one pan-democrat to a meeting last week, but subsequently put it on hold.
A spokesperson for the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong said in a statement on Tuesday that it firmly opposed and condemned what it characterised as the false accusations the US consulate made against China’s countermeasures applied to the US embassy and consulates on its soil.
The countermeasures were a reciprocal, necessary and legitimate response to the restrictions from the US, they added, and were aimed at urging the US to stop impeding bilateral exchanges and cooperation, and furthermore did not affect the lawful rights and freedoms enjoyed by the Hong Kong people.
The spokesman went on to urge the US to withdraw its restrictions, stop discrediting the “one country, two systems” framework and refrain meddling in Hong Kong affairs.
A spokesman for the Chief Executive’s Office, meanwhile, said the Hong Kong government “fully supports and will facilitate” the enforcement of Beijing’s countermeasures against the US.
The diplomatic tit-for-tat erupted on September 3 when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Chinese diplomats in the US would need permission to meet with local government officials or visit university campuses.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on September 11 that Beijing would impose “reciprocal restrictions” on the US embassy and consulates on Chinese soil, including the one in Hong Kong, without giving details.
Zhao described it as an “appropriate, mandatory response” to the rule change imposed by the US State Department.
Hong Kong has been at the forefront of straining US-China relations. Tensions have escalated since Beijing imposed a national security law on the city, which critics say has severely eroded its civil liberties.
The US retaliatory imposition of sanctions on Hong Kong officials was called “shameless and despicable” by city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Earlier, the Post reported that Hong Kong officials had been told to refrain from meeting American diplomats or engaging with them over the phone.
More from South China Morning Post:
- American diplomats in Hong Kong want to meet local officials or politicians? Get permission from Beijing’s foreign ministry, new directive demands
- Hong Kong officials ordered to snub US diplomats and say ‘I can’t speak with you’
This article United States condemns Beijing’s new restrictions on American consul general in Hong Kong first appeared on South China Morning Post