Hong Kong leader closes ranks with Beijing, condemns US law
Robie de Guzman • December 3, 2019 • 347
Hong Kong – The chief executive of Hong Kong on Tuesday closed ranks with Beijing and condemned the United States Senate’s passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which she lambasted as unnecessary and unjustified.
Carrie Lam said in a press conference that the US legislation would have an impact on the city’s economic development by undermining confidence and creating an unstable environment for Hong Kong-based businesses.
“This is completely unnecessary and very regrettable,” Lam said. “For now, it undermines confidence; it creates an unstable environment.”
The leader of the Chinese semi-autonomous region added that US firms were also concerned, as they too might be affected by the law.
“All this is creating uncertainty and won’t go well for any economic development,” Lam said.
She described the HKHRDA as clear interference by Washington in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, echoing the stance of Beijing, which on Monday responded by banning the stopover of US military ships and aircraft in the city and imposed sanctions on several non-governmental organizations and human rights groups.
“We will follow the law in supporting the central government and we will follow up on the measures they take,” said Lam.
The chief executive also criticized the American law for suggesting that the rights of Hong Kong residents were being violated and stressed that they enjoyed freedom of the press, religious liberty, and freedom of assembly.
The HKHRDA, which was signed into law by US President Donald Trump, requires the State Department to conduct reviews at least annually evaluating whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to merit a change to its current status as a preferential trade partner. It also prescribes sanctions on individuals found to have abused human rights in Hong Kong, including Chinese officials.
“The US government will have to conduct certain reviews after this passing; let’s see how they conduct them,” she said. “Of course, there will be an impact. This is an overseas foreign government taking such a measure.”
On the other hand, Lam announced a fourth round of relief measures to bolster the economy of the region, whose gross domestic product could contract by up to 1.3 percent for the entire fiscal year as it reels from the double impact of both the ongoing US-China trade war and the massive anti-government protests that have swept the city since June.
Lam did not specify what the new measures would look like. Instead, she committed to finding a way of stopping the violence as soon as possible to allow the economy to recover. “But now, cold water has been poured on the situation,” she said, in reference to the US law.
Retail sales plummeted by 24.3 percent in October due to the protests. Hong Kong’s finance secretary, Paul Chan, said it was the biggest inter-annual drop in the city’s history. EFE-EPA
Hong Kong on Wednesday (July 1) held a flag-raising ceremony followed by a speech by Chief Executive Carrie Lam to mark the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese rule, hours after new national security legislation took effect in the financial hub.
“The enactment of the national law is regarded as the most significant development in the relationship between the Central Authorities and the HKSAR since Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland”, the city’s embattled leader said the law was the most important development since the city’s return to Beijing in 1997.
Flanked by current and previous government officials, Lam also said the new law would only affect a small group of people in the Asian financial capital.
There was a heavy presence of law enforcement across the city as the ceremony was underway.
The contentious law will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests. (Reuters)
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam refused to respond to any queries on Hong Kong’s national security legislation on Tuesday (June 30) after local media, citing unidentified sources, said the law was passed unanimously by China’s top decision-making body.
The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the global financial hub was granted at its July 1, 1997 handover.
The United States began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high technology products.
“No sanctions will not scare us, we also are mentally prepared and, if necessary, the country will take responsive action. On foreign diplomacy, any actions taken by the central government, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s government will fully comply,” Carrie Lam told reporters at her weekly news conference.
A draft of the law has yet to be published. Beijing says the law, which comes in response to last year’s often-violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, aims to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism, and collusion with foreign forces. (Reuters)
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Thursday said the “one country, two systems” arrangement could continue after the autonomous city’s complete transfer to Chinese sovereignty in 2047 if loyalty to Beijing is maintained.
“As long as we uphold, fully understand and implement the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, there are adequate reasons to believe that the arrangement would move ahead smoothly and there would be no change after 2047,” Lam told the Legislative Council.
She said her topmost priority was to put an end to the violence and destruction that have affected the local economy and Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe and law-abiding business hub with an independent judiciary.
Lam expressed concern about the possible closure of companies and dismissal of employees after the Lunar New Year holiday (which starts Jan. 25) but expressed hope for economic recovery if social order was restored in the crisis-ridden city.
She said she intended to announce next month the establishment of a committee to investigate the reasons behind the riots in Hong Kong.
The “Independent Review Committee” would be composed of social leaders, experts, and academics, who will carry out a study to analyze the root causes of problems in Hong Kong.
Lam described the creation of such a committee as an “important step” towards reconciliation after seven months of protests, although she added that the administration was having difficulty finding people to join the proposed panel.
Tensions returned to parliament on Thursday after 13 pro-democracy legislators were ordered to leave the meeting for repeatedly interrupting the session, holding banners and chanting slogans such as “five demands, not one less” and “Carrie Lam step down”.
The “five demands” include direct universal suffrage, freeing of almost 6,000 detainees, the protests not to be considered unrest and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
The city administration has already withdrawn a controversial extradition bill that was part of the demand of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Critics of the plan to establish a review committee say that the protesters have already made it very clear what drives their continued campaign against the government and that only an independent investigation of police brutality would be considered satisfactory. EFE-EPA
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