Hong Kong leader closes ranks with Beijing, condemns US law

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2019   •   151

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a press conference at the Central Government Offices in Hong Kong, China, 03 December 2019. EPA-EFE/JEROME FAVRE

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

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Hong Kong leader asks to maintain election day peace to resume dialogue

Robie de Guzman   •   November 26, 2019

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks to reporters during a press conference in Hong Kong, China, 26 November 2019. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy candidates rose to a landslide victory in the district council elections on 25 November 2019 in a record voter turnout, sending a strong message to the government and its allies. EPA-EFE/FAZRY ISMAIL

Hong Kong’s chief executive asked Tuesday to maintain the “peaceful and safe environment” witnessed in last weekend’s local elections day to resume dialogue and find a solution for protests that have rocked the city since June.

Carrie Lam made the statements during her weekly press conference – the first after her crushing defeat in the elections, in which the pro-democracy opposition won 388 of the 452 available seats.

Asked whether she would yield to the protesters’ demands and investigate alleged police brutality in protests, Lam said she would “set up an independent review committee” to look at the protests’ causes and “identify the underlying problems, social, economic or even political and to recommend measures that the Government should take.”

The Hong Kong leader said she would take as an example the response of British authorities to the riots in Tottenham, London, in 2011.

Regarding the election result, Lam said “this particular election has clearly reflected that many voters wanted to express their opinions and views to the Government, to myself.”

“The views and opinions expressed are quite diverse. There are people who wanted to express a view that they could no longer tolerate the violence on the streets, there are of course people who felt that the Government has not competently handled the legislative exercise and its aftermath,” the leader said.

She called for an end to the violence and demanded to maintain the “relative calm and peace that we have seen in the last week,” which allowed elections to be held in a “peaceful and fair environment” despite doubts on whether it would be wise to hold them.

Lam congratulated elected candidates and praised those who stood for elections, “especially those who were threatened” during the process.

Lam had dismissed the idea that elections were a test toward her government’s support.

“The voices of Hong Kong residents were heard. Hong Kong residents don’t want the society to be in a chaotic situation and […] so we could restore order to our normal life,” she added.

With a record of more than 71-percent voter turnout, the elections showed society’s support toward the protest movement and their dissatisfaction with authorities’ actions, since the after pro-democracy candidates took more than 85 percent of the seats.

Being a simple majority electoral system in which the candidate who gets the most votes is elected, the difference in the vote percentage was much smaller: the pro-democracy bloc gained 57 percent of the votes while the pro-Beijing camp received 41 percent. EFE-EPA

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Hong Kong legislature suspended amid chaos over protests

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam addresses a press conference after presenting her 2019 policy address in Hong Kong, China, 16 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MIGUEL CANDELA

Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong heckled the city’s embattled leader and called for her to step down on Thursday (October 17) during a legislative session that was repeatedly suspended as several politicians were manhandled out of the chamber.

It was the second day of chaos in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council as leader Carrie Lam tried to answer questions about her annual policy address, which she was forced to deliver by video link on Wednesday (October 16) after similar disruptions in the assembly.

Lam, who is backed by China’s government, announced measures on Wednesday to tackle the city’s chronic housing shortage in her address after she was jeered in the chamber. Again, on Thursday, pro-democracy lawmakers shouted for Lam to resign, saying she had blood on her hands.

They also called on her to address protesters’ key demands – something her policy address largely ignored.

About a dozen members of the assembly were ejected, shouting and waving placards as security guards marched them out. (Reuters)

(Production: Xihao Jiang, Juarawee Kittisilpa)

Embattled Hong Kong leader to adhere to ‘one country, two systems’ in policy address

Jeck Deocampo   •   October 17, 2019

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam addresses a press conference after presenting her 2019 policy address in Hong Kong, China, 16 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MIGUEL CANDELA

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said moves to threaten the ‘one country, two systems’ framework will not be tolerated in a televised policy address on Wednesday (October 16) as she battled to restore confidence in her administration and address widespread discontent after over four months of anti-government protests.

Lam had earlier been forced to abort her annual policy address after some pro-democracy lawmakers jeered as she began speaking, causing an unprecedented cancellation of the speech in the Legislative Council of the Chinese-ruled city.

The Beijing-backed leader later gave her speech over a video feed, saying her government would drastically increase the number of housing projects and accelerate the sale of public housing schemes.

She was speaking hours after the U.S. House of Representatives passed three pieces of legislation related to the Hong Kong protests, drawing a swift rebuke from Beijing, which accused the lawmakers of “sinister intentions” to undermine stability in the Asian financial hub. (REUTERS)

(Production: Juarawee Kittisilpa)

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