The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong has called on the local government to provide “straightforward interpretations and applications” of the national security law in the upcoming Policy Address.

national security law banner
A national security billboard. Photo: GovHK.

In a 49-page document, the US chamber made a list of suggestions related to the security legislation, talent attraction, trade, financial services, housing and more. It came ahead of Chief Executive John Lee’s second Policy Address, which will be delivered on October 25.

“AmCham encourages the government to publish well-defined guidelines offering straightforward interpretations and applications of the National Security Law,” the chamber wrote. “The Government should seek to reassure the business community that laws related to Hong Kong’s national security will be applied narrowly and consistent with the principles of an independent judiciary.”

Also among the chamber’s calls was for the government to emphasise the “Two Systems” of the city’s “One Country, Two Systems” framework. The city should display tangible examples of “business-friendly regulation and increased governance transparency,” the chamber added.

Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong in June 2020 following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

Gregory May speaking at a forum held by the Center for Strategic & International Studies on January 25, 2023.
Gregory May speaking at a forum held by the Centre for Strategic & International Studies on January 25, 2023. Photo: CSIS, via video screenshot.

Last month, US Consul General Gregory May said at a Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations event that the national security law had raised concerns among the American business community, including related to censorship and data transparency.

He added, however, that the city still enjoyed “relative” freedom compared to mainland China, and that US firms were not planning to pull out of the city.

Since the national security law was passed, scores of ex-lawmakers and activists have been charged while dozens of civil society groups and unions have shut citing an atmosphere of fear.

However, the authorities say the security law has restored stability and peace to the city.

International talent drive

The chamber also said it was concerned about the city’s challenges in attracting talent. It said the government’s newly launched Office of Attracting Strategic Enterprises, which aims to lure mainland Chinese and overseas companies, should seek to “attract a diverse and international business community to Hong Kong.”

Central Business Cityview
File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Hong Kong government has been on a quest to draw talent to Hong Kong amid a brain drain following the 2019 protests and the Covid pandemic.

Last week, the government held a launch ceremony to welcome 30 “strategic companies” – most from mainland China – who signed partnership agreements to set up or expand their business in Hong Kong. But authorities did not reveal how many of the enterprises were new to the city. Some, among them Lenovo and JD, had long established operations in Hong Kong.

The chamber also advocated further trade liberalisation policies to cement Hong Kong’s role as an international trade hub, for example by entering various free trade agreements such as the Asia-Pacific-based Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Speaking at the Hong Kong-ASEAN Summit on Monday, Chief Executive John Lee vowed to enhance cooperation with ASEAN countries and give them greater access to markets in the Greater Bay Area.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.