Macau's security minister has dismissed suggestions its refusal to allow the leaders of a Hong Kong-based American business group into the city was in retaliation against United States legislation backing anti-government protesters.
Wong Sio-chak refused to explain why the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (AmCham) chairman Robert Grieves and president Tara Joseph were denied entry to Macau, but said linking the decision with the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed in the US last month was "speculation".
Speaking at a public event in Macau on Sunday, he insisted "safety risks and threats" were the only considerations in such decisions, adding he only learned about the case through the media.
The business chiefs were separately prevented from entering the city, which is part of China but promised a high degree of autonomy, as they travelled to the annual AmCham Macau Ball on Saturday.
Defending the right of countries and territories to enforce their immigration policy, Wong said: "Police have the responsibility to ensure Macau's safety, and the same principle applies to port control.
"When (police immigration officers) carry out duties according to laws, the identities and occupations of the persons entering Macau are not their consideration. Safety risks and threats are the only considerations."
Wong offered no further explanation for why the two AmCham leaders were refused entry, insisting he only knew about the decisions through the media and would not comment on individual cases.
The incident came as Macau, a former Portuguese colony, prepares to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its handover to China later this month.
Wong was asked by the media whether the refusal was in retaliation against the US Congress passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was signed by President Donald Trump at the end of last month. Wong said it was simply "speculation" to think so.
The legislation, which requires the US government to regularly assess Hong Kong's autonomy to preserve its special trading status, paves the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against the city's government.
It was pursued by American lawmakers in response to the anti-government protests that have gripped Hong Kong for six months.
Organisers estimated 800,000 people attended a march on Hong Kong Island on Sunday, where activists championed the five demands of the protest movement, which was sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill in June.
After the bill was passed in Washington, Beijing warned of possible sanctions against US non-governmental organisations and human rights bodies. But it did not warn of similar treatment for business chambers.
AmCham has said it was "puzzled" about the denial of entry, adding the chamber was supportive of the development of business in the Greater Bay Area, the national scheme to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into an economic powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley.
Joseph said on Monday morning she had no further comment for now following Wong's remarks.
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