Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended Beijing’s planned national security law at a press conference Tuesday, emphasizing that it will not weaken Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.
Foreign politicians’ claims that the law will affect Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms, and weaken the city’s status as a financial status, are “nonsense,” Lam said.
“Many countries around the world, including western countries, also have such legislation,” she added. “[We] don’t see them scaring off investors or losing their status as an international financial center or business center.”
Lam’s press conference is her first public address since Beijing announced it will push a national security law in Hong Kong that will target what it identifies as foreign interference, terrorism, and subversion against the central government. Many say such legislation could have far-reaching consequences for Hong Kong’s autonomy, and will be used to close in on the political movement that began last summer over a controversial extradition bill.
“Beijing has just hammered the final nail in the coffin for Hong Kong’s autonomy. The promise of “one country, two systems” is dead,” prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong wrote in a Washington Post column published Monday.
The Hang Seng Index tumbled the most in almost five years after Beijing announced it was deliberating the law.
Fears of an imminent crackdown prompted fresh protests on Sunday, when around 180 people arrested as police fired tear gas to disperse violent protestors. The protest was the largest since January, when the months-long movement largely halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The government strongly condemns the violence that happened in Wanchai and Causeway Bay [on Sunday],” Lam said.
Lam also denied that Beijing is bypassing the city’s legislature to enact the law. “Such comment completely ignores the constitutional relationship between the Hong Kong SAR and the central government.”
The national security law is expected to pass in Beijing’s top legislature as early as the end of next month. More protests are expected in the days and weeks to come—demonstrators plan to besiege the Legislative Council tomorrow as lawmakers deliberate a controversial national anthem law that could criminalize disrespect of China’s national anthem.