Chief Executive Carrie Lam has voiced opposition to a bill in the US Congress that could impose sanctions on top Hong Kong officials who infringe upon “basic freedoms” in the city.

On Tuesday, Lam expressed “strong regret” over the proposed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would require the US government to make annual assessments on the level of political autonomy in the city.

“Any form of intervention from foreign legislatures into Hong Kong’s internal affairs is most inappropriate. And we will not let [the US Congress] become… a stakeholder in Hong Kong’s affairs,” Lam told reporters ahead of an Executive Council meeting.

“I hope that there will be no more local figures, especially those in certain positions, actively asking the US government or Congress to pass this bill.”

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Large crowds of protesters turned out on Sunday to urge US lawmakers to prioritise the bill once Congress is back in session on Monday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that she “looks forward to swiftly advancing” the bill, which has gained bipartisan support.

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Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

On Tuesday, the chief executive said that the bill has been introduced at Congress before, but has never passed. “Each country’s legislature should deal with their own country’s affairs. The affairs of Hong Kong should be dealt with by the Hong Kong SAR government,” she added.

Asked about the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act, which has been in place since 1992 and treats Hong Kong as a separate territory from China in economic and trade matters, Lam drew a distinction by saying the existing law brings a “positive bilateral relationship.”

“Any agreements that we have, or any particular provisions that apply to Hong Kong from the Americans, they are not exclusively for the benefit for Hong Kong – they are also mutual,” Lam said, referring to US businesses in the city.

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A delegation led by Anson Chan meets with Nancy Pelosi. Photo: handout.

“But to interfere into Hong Kongs internal affairs, in terms of what we are doing under the Basic Law – protection of freedoms and liberties – this is totally unnecessary, because we ourselves have the obligation and duty to comply with provisions in the Basic Law.”

Lam said that the city enjoys a high degree of autonomy in conducting external affairs, which includes signing free trade agreements that “bring mutual benefit to both parties.”

The potential action by US lawmakers was prompted by months of protest, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to China. Since June, large-scale peaceful protests have morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment and alleged police brutality.

US President Donald Trump has said that the protests are for Beijing to resolve, though – last month – also called upon Xi Jinping to deal with the matter “humanely.”

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.