Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned the United States today not to “interfere” with her government’s response to the city’s pro-democracy movement, after fresh protests called on Washington to ramp up pressure on Beijing.
Continuing their months-long campaign, protesters took to the streets again on Sunday, marching to the American consulate to call on Congress to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement.
The proposed law could undermine Hong Kong’s special US trade privileges by mandating regular checks on whether authorities were respecting the Basic Law that underpins the city’s semi-autonomous status.
But pro-Beijing Chief Executive Lam said that any change to the city’s economic relationship with Washington would threaten “mutual benefits.”
“It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters at a regular weekly press conference. “I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act.”
While some American politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the democratic goals of the protesters, President Donald Trump’s administration has maintained a more hands-off approach while it fights a trade war with China.
Trump has called for a peaceful resolution to the political crisis and urged Beijing to not escalate with a violent crackdown. But he has also said it is up to China to handle the protests.
Washington has rejected Beijing’s allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and China has provided little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some US politicians.
Hong Kong’s protests were lit by a plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland, seen by opponents as the latest move by China to chip away at the city’s unique freedoms. The movement has since snowballed into a broader campaign calling for greater democracy, police accountability, and an amnesty for those arrested.
Last week, Lam made a surprise concession, announcing the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, but the pro-democracy camp denounced the move as too little and too late, and huge crowds thronged the streets again over the weekend.
In what has become a familiar pattern, Sunday’s main daytime rally to the US consulate passed off peacefully. But as evening set in, riot police chased groups of hardcore protesters who blocked roads, vandalized nearby MTR stations, and set makeshift barricades on fire.
Lam once again denounced demonstrators during today’s press conference.
“The crazy destruction made at MTR stations shows that protesters have acted beyond expressing their views on the extradition law and other demands,” she said.
“The escalating and continuous violence cannot solve the problems we face in Hong Kong.”