Statement on the Chilling Effect of the National Security Law on Free Speech

Since Beijing imposed its draconian National Security Law on Hong Kong on June 30, we have repeatedly raised our grave concerns about the effect this ill-defined, vaguely worded, and far-reaching law would have on Hong Kong. Hong Kong used to be a model of freedom, transparency, and rule of law, which was fundamental to its success. We are deeply concerned about the chilling effect the law may have on civil society, the media, and on the public’s ability to exercise the freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly that they have enjoyed heretofore, all of which were promised to them by Beijing in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an UN-registered treaty.

Diplomats assigned to the U.S. Consulate Hong Kong and Macau meet with everyone: pro-establishment figures, opposition figures, along with people from across Hong Kong society. These meetings are neither secretive nor mysterious. The job of our diplomats is to understand our hosts and to help them understand the United States. To do so, we meet with the broadest range of interlocutors possible. The suggestion that those who meet with consulate representatives are engaging in “collusion” is ludicrous. These allegations underscore the fact that the National Security Law was never about security, but rather, was​ intended to silence democracy advocates and threaten those who engage in even the most routine forms of free speech.

The National Security Law seeks to create an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship. It would be an enormous tragedy if it crushed the very openness, diversity, and vitality that are at the heart of what makes Hong Kong so unique. We call on the Hong Kong government to remain true to its ideals and to advance the spirit of tolerance, open-minded exchange, and dialogue between individuals from all walks of life.

U.S. policy towards Hong Kong has been consistent for decades. Just as we have repeatedly acknowledged that Hong Kong is part of China, so have we emphasized our support for the One Country, Two Systems framework and the high degree of autonomy promised to Hong Kong by Beijing. We once again call on Beijing to respect the commitment it made to the people of Hong Kong, and to the international community, in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.