HK leader tells US Congress not to ‘interfere’ with city’s affairs, and calls on anti-government protesters to stop asking Washington for help

11-Sep-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader has said a US congressional bill that could strip the city of its special trading status is unnecessary interference, and called for local figures to stop asking for its passage.

Speaking before meeting her advisers at the Executive Council on Tuesday morning, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed “deep regret” over the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and said it was a move to “interfere with SAR affairs”.

“Any form of interference from foreign congresses is extremely inappropriate,” Lam said. “I hope no more local figures, particularly those in certain positions, will ask proactively for the American Congress to pass the act.”

While Lam did not name the individuals, pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, including Demosisto’s Joshua Wong Chi-fung, have called for the legislation to be passed.

Anti-government protesters have urged American officials and politicians to support their cause by taking diplomatic action against the city’s government by passing the act, first introduced in 2014 and reintroduced in June.

The bipartisan legislation could pave the way for Washington to sanction mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials as well as stripping the city of its special status as a separate trade and customs entity from the rest of China.

The bill would require Washington to assess the city’s political autonomy each year to determine whether the benefits given under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 should continue.

Under the new act, the US president would have the power to take action against people “complicit in suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong”.

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Some believe the legislation could deter Beijing from suppressing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said it was reasonable for foreign congresses to sanction individuals involved in the violation of freedoms and human rights.

“I don’t think [the bill] is any interference in the domestic affairs of Hong Kong,” he said, adding that such acts were an “international norm”.

Last Sunday, thousands marched to the US consulate in Hong Kong to call for the bill’s passage, before some protesters turned violent.

Marchers carried US flags and placards that read: “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong.”

The anti-government movement, now into its 14th week, has rocked the city, leading to several violent clashes with police and more than 1,000 arrests. Officers have used tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is currently being vetted by congressional committees and there is no set date for it to be put before legislators.

Any agreements that we have are not exclusively for the benefit of Hong Kong

Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Next Tuesday, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China is set to hold a hearing attended by Wong, pro-democracy activist and singer Denise Ho Wan-sze, and University of Hong Kong student leader Sunny Ho.

The hearing will “examine developments in Hong Kong and the future of US-Hong Kong relations”, in light of the ongoing protests, and “escalating tensions caused by police violence and threats by the Chinese government against Hong Kong’s autonomy”.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are believed to be planning to introduce further legislation to suspend exports of riot-control equipment and services to the Hong Kong police.

On Tuesday, Lam also said some 1,400 American firms in the city enjoyed benefits from the “positive bilateral relationship” between Hong Kong and the US.

“Any agreements that we have, or any particular provisions applied to Hong Kong, from the Americans, are not exclusively for the benefit of Hong Kong,” she said.

“But to interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs… this is totally unnecessary.”


Category: Hong Kong

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