HONG KONG • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is visiting Beijing today with a high-powered team to discuss China’s national security law for the semi-autonomous city.
In her first public appearance after the United States said it would end its preferential treatment of Hong Kong, Mrs Lam said yesterday that many accusations related to the proposed legislation were unfounded, and called for mutual respect from the US.
The Hong Kong leader pointed out America’s “double standards” in the way it handles protests after US President Donald Trump’s administration vocally supported sometimes-violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub.
“Look at how the local governments handle chaos in the US and what stance they took on a similar level of chaos in Hong Kong last year,” Mrs Lam said. “They are highly concerned about their national security, while holding different standards for our country, especially over Hong Kong’s situation.”
Mrs Lam is facing renewed anti-government protests in Hong Kong as China’s plan to enact the sweeping national security legislation for the city fuels public anger and fears that its basic freedoms and autonomy will be further eroded.
Beijing says the legislation is aimed at establishing and improving Hong Kong’s legal system and enforcement mechanisms to safeguard national security.
In response to China’s decision, Mr Trump has vowed to revoke some of Hong Kong’s special trading privileges and impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials “directly or indirectly involved” in the matter.
But the US has now found itself engulfed by widespread unrest of its own, triggered by the death of African-American man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Mrs Lam’s backers in Beijing have seized on the opportunity to needle the Trump administration over the protests in recent days, with Chinese propaganda outlets showing scenes from the US of burning buildings, harsh police responses and demonstrators decrying the government.
Mrs Lam yesterday addressed the possibility of US sanctions, saying there was “no justification whatsoever” for any foreign governments to level them on Hong Kong.
“For the time being, I have not seen or heard any details from the US administration,” she said.
Look at how the local governments handle chaos in the US and what stance they took on a similar level of chaos in Hong Kong last year. They are highly concerned about their national security, while holding different standards for our country, especially over Hong Kong’s situation.
MRS CARRIE LAM, who yesterday pointed out America’s “double standards” in the way it handles protests.
“My stance is to point out to the American government, and any other governments if that arises, that they will be hurting their own interests in Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong authorities announced later in the day that they would extend a ban on gatherings of more than eight people to June 18, after the discovery of a cluster of new coronavirus cases within the community, which ended its 16-day streak of zero local cases.
The city has seen relative success in containing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and has slowly returned to a sense of normalcy in recent weeks.
As parts of the world begin reopening after prolonged virus-induced closures, Mrs Lam cautioned governments not to take measures that would further undermine the global economy.
Hong Kong police on Monday banned for the first time an annual June 4 vigil to honour victims of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, citing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
The event at Victoria Park draws huge crowds each year and is the only place on Chinese soil where such a big commemoration of the anniversary is allowed.
Organisers said the virus is an excuse to bar pro-democracy supporters from congregating, and that they still planned to go to Victoria Park even though they expected police to disperse any gathering.
They have asked supporters to light candles at 8pm tomorrow and to post the images online.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday accused China of muzzling Hong Kong by preventing the vigil. “If there is any doubt about Beijing’s intent, it is to deny Hong Kongers a voice and a choice, making them the same as mainlanders. So much for two systems,” Mr Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE