Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said she was disappointed by the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and said the city’s freedom has not been eroded.
Last Thursday, US President Donald Trump signed the act into law. It can be used to punish officials who are deemed to be harming human rights and democracy in the city and comes after five months of major protests over democracy and police accountability.
Lam, when asked about the act, said the Hong Kong government strongly opposed it as it was unnecessary and unreasonable.
“Hong Kong’s human rights and freedom are protected by the Basic Law. In fact, I want to ask which aspect of Hong Kong residents’ freedom was eroded? We have press freedom, we have freedom to participate in rallies and marches. We have religious freedom. We have a high degree of freedom in many aspects,” she said ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, as she mistakenly referred the law as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Freedom Act.
During the past few months, the Hong Kong police have banned numerous public gatherings on the basis of public security.
Lam also said the act created an unstable environment for companies, and chambers of commerce have opposed the law.
China suspended US warship visits and sanctioned American NGOs on Monday in retaliation for the passage of the act. Lam said that Beijing’s response is a matter of diplomacy that Hong Kong will follow up in accordance with the central government’s instruction.
The police used tear gas during protests over the past weekend. Lam said protesters blocked roads, set fires and threw petrol bombs, leaving the police with no choice but to use tear gas.
“I have said that we hope to have a way to stop the violence and let our economy recover. Now cold water has been poured [over chances of recovery],” she said.
She said she has spoken many times about the protesters’ five demands and had nothing to add.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has not been seen in public for weeks after she was injured in London.
Lam said Cheng was still on sick leave and would not reveal more as to protect her privacy.
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