Hong Kong leader says security law will not hurt freedom amid global alarm
May 26 2020 01:54 PM
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during a news conference in Hong Kong


* Lam says security laws will not affect rights, freedoms
* Proposed legislation has raised alarm in HK and abroad
* Beijing, HK gvt describe some protest acts as "terrorism"
* Activists plan more protests amid fears of crackdown


Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday Beijing's proposed national security law for the city, which has raised alarm in the global financial centre and abroad, would not trample on its cherished rights and freedoms.
Business leaders, international trade chambers and diplomats have said pushing through the legislation could mark a turning point for China's freest city, having an impact on a broad spectrum of its activities and intensify social unrest.
Lam spoke as online forums called for a general strike and protests on Wednesday against a national anthem law that is due for its second reading in the city's Legislative Council, stoking renewed concern over what many see as Beijing's encroachment over the city.
The anthem law would criminalise disrespect of China's national anthem and critics say it would further erode freedoms in the former British colony.
"There is no need for us to worry," Lam told a regular weekly news conference in a bid to allay concern over Beijing's intention to directly enact the national security law.
"In the last 23 years, whenever people worried about Hong Kong's freedom of speech and freedom of expression and protest, time and again, Hong Kong has proven that we uphold and preserve those values," she said.
Like others supporting the legislation, she did not explain how the freedoms that Hong Kong enjoys would be upheld.
The United States has branded the law a "death knell" for the city's autonomy and Britain said it was deeply concerned by a law that it said would undermine the "one country, two systems" principle under which Hong Kong is governed.
Hong Kong's Bar Association said the draft had "worrying and problematic features".
According to a draft proposal last week, the legislation aims to tackle secession, subversion and terrorist activities. It could see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in one of the world's biggest financial hubs.
Hong Kong's Department of Justice warned against "unwarranted speculation" over the legislation.
Victor Li, son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, said in a statement he hoped the law would help bring stability to the city and normalise social and economic activities.
MORE PROTESTS
On Sunday, police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of people who thronged the streets to protest against the proposed legislation and arrested almost 200.
It was the first major protest since pro-democracy demonstrations rocked Hong Kong last year over an unsuccessful plan to introduce an extradition law with China. The unrest plunged the city into its worst crisis since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
More demonstrations are expected in coming weeks as residents grow more confident Hong Kong about gathering with the coronavirus outbreak under control.
As many Hong Kong people fret about the national security law, demand for virtual private networks surged six-fold last Thursday, the day the plan were unveiled.
The United States said Hong Kong could lose the preferential treatment it accords the city that makes it a vibrant interface between communist China and the West.
Investors' concerns were clear in a sell-off on the Hong Kong bourse on Friday, though stocks regained some ground this week.
"Medium-to-long term it will still depend on U.S.-China relations and the political situation in Hong Kong," said Steven Leung, executive director for institutional sales at brokerage UOB Kay Hian.
Hong Kong is governed under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees it a high degree of autonomy and freedom not seen in mainland China, including freedom of expression and the right to protest.
Beijing and city officials have toughened their rhetoric recently, describing some of the acts in the protests as terrorism and attempts at secessionism, remarks echoed by Lam on Tuesday.
Protests turned increasingly violent last year.
While authorities scrapped the bill that sparked the unrest, they dug in their heels against calls for universal suffrage, amnesty for arrested protesters, an independent inquiry into against police handling of the demonstrations and a request not to label the protests riots.
Opinion polls show only a minority of Hong Kong people support independence, which is anathema to Beijing. 



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