U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has praised Hong Kong for its efforts in helping to restrict international terrorist financing. He also brushed aside criticism that the United States is compromising civil liberties in its war against terrorism. Mr. Ashcroft's visit to Hong Kong on the final leg of an Asian tour.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says a key aspect of the war against terrorism is the disruption of terrorist financing, and he praised Hong Kong's efforts in that area.
"Hong Kong has been a leader in the often overlooked, but critical aspect in the war against terror, and that is the part of that war, which is to interrupt the flow of financing of terrorist organizations and organized crime," Mr. Ashcroft said.
Mr. Ashcroft noted that Hong Kong last year hosted the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, which he said made significant strides in enhancing international cooperation against terrorist financing.
Hong Kong also approved legislation in July this year, giving the government the power to freeze the funds and financial assets of terrorists and confiscate funds from organized crime.
"It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the decisive actions of the task force to cut off terrorist funding," he said. "Simply put, terrorists cannot terrorize without money, without resources. Training costs money, planning costs money, explosives costs money, and plane tickets cost money."
In a speech to community leaders and business executives, Mr. Ashcroft rejected criticism that the U.S. Department of Justice has compromised civil liberties in its efforts to fight terrorism.
"We will not surrender to terrorism by altering our commitment to civil liberties. And I have instructed the [Justice)] Department to do what we can to take new steps, think outside the box, but never ever think outside the Constitution of the United States of America," said Mr. Ashcroft.
Mr. Ashcroft was meeting with local officials on Friday. His visit to Hong Kong is the final leg of an Asian tour that also took him to Tokyo, and to Beijing, where on Thursday he formally opened an office of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation.