The diplomat added the hardening of China’s stance toward Hong Kong was a decision made by senior Beijing leaders.
“It’s being directed at the [Politburo] Standing Committee level,” a Western diplomat said, referring to the CCP’s highest decision-making body. “We have solid indications of this.”
US, British and other multinationals maintain a strong presence in the territory while foreign warships stop frequently in its dynamic and strategic port.
British officials have yet to respond to the Chinese criticism of Swire’s comments. China’s Hong Kong-based Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative Song Zhe (宋哲) also issued an explicit warning to Hart against interfering in local affairs.
Consulate spokesman Scott Robinson defended Hart’s work, saying the envoy had met with a range of leaders across government, business, politics and academia.
“Such meetings are the standard practice of diplomatic representatives of nations around the world at the outset of their tenures, and they are important for building relationships, exchanging views and opening lines of communications,” he said.
Long-standing US policy toward Hong Kong was unchanged, he said — including support for progress toward “genuine universal suffrage.”
Additional reporting by Grace Li