Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam concluded a visit to Myanmar this weekend after discussing trade and China’s Belt and Road development initiative with the country’s leaders. The visit took place days after the UN’s rights chief said Myanmar was instigating “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims in the north.

aung san suu kyi carrie lam
Carrie Lam presents Aung San Suu Kyi with a photo of her by Steve McCurry. Photo: GovHK.

The UN says that 400,000 refugees have fled the violence, with thousands continuing to flood into neighbouring Bangladesh amid shortages of food, clean water and other necessities. The government’s military offensive in Rakhine state came after a series of guerrilla attacks upon security posts and an army camp on August 25. China has voiced support for Myanmar authorities, who deny a genocide is under way, claiming that they are fighting terrorism and villagers are burning down their own villages.

On Friday, Lam met with Myanmar’s minister of the President’s Office, and de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. She presented the Nobel Peace Prize winner with a signed portrait US photographer Steve McCurry took of her whilst she remained under house arrest in 1996.

Carrie Lam (sixth-left) meets with Vice President of Myanmar U Myint Swe (seventh-left) in the capital city of Naypyidaw.

Amid international criticism, Suu Kyi’s government has launched a media campaign seeking to win support for the crackdown and calling BBC reports on the crisis “fake news.”

ASEAN trade

The Chief Executive’s Office said Hong Kong’s relationship with Myanmar will be strengthened in light of the free trade and investment agreements the city has signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

It said Hong Kong said it attached great importance to promoting trade across Southeast Asia and that Ms Lam used her visit to explore opportunities arising from China’s Belt and Road regional development project.

At the 14th World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention in Yangon on Saturday, she said: “Attaching great importance to co-operation with Myanmar as well as other ASEAN members, Hong Kong expects the Belt & Road Initiative and the development plan of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area of our country will lead us to a new economic era.”

carrie lam in myanmar
Photo: GovHK.

Earlier in the week, she met with Myanmar’s commerce, planning and finance and tourism ministers. She is the first Hong Kong chief executive to visit the Southeast Asian country since the 1997 Handover. She will visit the UK from next Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed “deep concerns” to Suu Kyi over the treatment of the Rohingya, according to the National Post.

HKFP has contacted Lam’s office for comment.

Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.