Washington has warned overseas American citizens of a potential increase in surveillance and arbitrary law enforcement in Hong Kong arising from a looming national security law.

US officials have locked horns with Beijing over its unprecedented decision to impose legislation criminalising subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorism on the semi-autonomous city, in a bid to quash months of unrest over diminishing freedoms.

Photo: Studio Incendo.

“US citizens travelling or residing in Hong Kong may be subject to increased levels of surveillance, as well as arbitrary enforcement of laws for purposes other than maintaining law and order,” the travel advisory update, issued on Tuesday, read.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam and local officials have sought to allay fears over a mainland-style political crackdown, saying civil liberties will not be affected.

Business concerns

Separately, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong on Wednesday released the results of its survey on the business sentiment of 180 – or 15 per cent – of its members.

It found more than 53 per cent said they were “very concerned” about the national security law, whilst 30 per cent were “moderately concerned” and 16.67 per cent were not.

Photo: GovHK.

Sixty per cent said they thought the legislation would harm their operations in the city, compared with 40 per cent who said it would not.

“Hong Kong law will be severely diminished as a choice of governing law due to insecurity of contract; Hong Kong will no longer be viewed as a neutral seat for arbitration, and many areas of the capital markets will be restricted or will migrate to other cities in the region,” the report quoted a respondent as saying.

AmCham’s findings stand in contrast to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) , which on Monday reported that 61 per cent of its responding members believed the law would have either a positive impact on business or no impact at all.

Meanwhile, 54 per cent said it would have a negative short term impact due to the surrounding “controversy,” it said.

“The Chamber concludes that the business community in general is positive about the law in the long run. Companies’ main concerns were business confidence relating to the short-term uncertainties that it might create,” the statement read.

US President Donald Trump last Friday declared the city no longer autonomous enough to warrant its special trading status.

HKGCC’s poll was conducted from May 26-29.

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Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.