Opinion | Hong Kong plays a unique role in US-China relations


Americans are clearly voting with their feet on Hong Kong again. Washington’s top envoy to the city said the number of U.S. citizens living in the city is “rebounding” this year, reversing a recent decline.

Many will agree with US Consul General Gregory May’s assessment that this is “good news” for US-Hong Kong relations, which have suffered from souring relations between Washington and Beijing.

Last Wednesday, at a reception ahead of America’s July 4th Independence Day, May told a lively crowd that included businessmen from both markets that promoting face-to-face academic and cultural exchanges between the US and Hong Kong had always been his priority One of the tasks since taking office last September.

He said that since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, he is pleased that Hong Kong’s travel links with US destinations have returned to normal, and is confident that more direct flights will resume by the end of this year.

US Consul Gregory May (left) and Deputy Financial Secretary Wai Lun Wong at a recent reception ahead of US 4th of July. Photo: South China Morning Post/Elson Li

Speaking to reporters after the reception, the U.S. envoy touched on tougher issues. He pledged to seek mutual understanding in areas where the two sides disagree.

But internally, May’s focus was on people-to-people exchanges, a sentiment echoed by Hong Kong government representatives at the event. Although the deputy financial secretary, Wong Wai-lun, was the highest-ranking Hong Kong official to attend the meeting, he conveyed a message of wanting to expand US-Hong Kong trade based on mutual understanding and respect.

Top U.S. envoy to Hong Kong says Americans return to Hong Kong after recent economic downturn

That personal touch was on display when President Xi Jinping met his “old friend” Bill Gates in Beijing on June 16. Xi told the Microsoft co-founder that “the foundation of Sino-US relations lies in the people”.

Much work remains to be done to repair bilateral relations. This month alone, top U.S. diplomat Anthony Blinken in Washington held talks in Beijing, days after U.S. President Joe Biden made controversial remarks about Xi Jinping.

But it’s encouraging to see dialogue between the two sides. Next month, the US diplomatic mission in Hong Kong will commemorate its 180th anniversary in the city where East meets West. Hong Kong is the perfect place to open doors with a human touch.

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