The Commerce Secretary, Edward Yau, has dismissed suggestions by the US Consul General in Hong Kong that Beijing's desire to "influence and control political conversations and events" here could hurt the SAR's economy.
In a speech delivered to an HKUST alumni meeting on Thursday, Kurt Tong expressed concern over whether Hong Kong could maintain its high level of autonomy, citing what he called a number of unfortunate "firsts" in 2018 -- including the first banning of a political party, the first foreign journalist ejected from the city, and the first time a large number of political candidates had been disqualified over their political views.
He said politics and business converge at many points, and warned that a drop in the city's political autonomy would undoubtedly have a negative impact on its economy.
But speaking on an RTHK radio programme, Yau rejected suggestions that Beijing had been actively involved in those cases.
He said although the incidents were controversial, they were all dealt with under local laws under the One Country Two Systems principle.
The commerce chief added that if the international community respects the rule of law in Hong Kong, they should also respect the decisions made by local courts; and not "cherry-pick" incidents that don't satisfy them.
“Hong Kong can’t make changes just because of the wishes of people from other places”, he said.
In a statement, the US Consulate stressed Kurt Tong had been cautious in setting out his views.