Chief Executive Carrie Lam has accused critics of the impending national security law of going against the interests of local residents. Her comments come on the first anniversary of what organisers said was a ‘two million’ protest in Hong Kong history.
“I urge those who have been resorting to demonising and stigmatising [the law] to stop. When they do this, they are pitching themselves against Hong Kong residents, who want stability again – they want a safe environment, work and life,” she said on Tuesday ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting.
“The common goal must be for Hong Kong to resume stability. It has been said the law will only to target a handful of people who are acting in a way that undermines national security,” she added. “We are talking about protecting the vast majority of Hong Kong people and their legitimate rights and interests.”
Her comments came exactly one year after crowds took to the streets to oppose an ill-fated government proposal to draw up an extradition agreement with mainland China. The bill sparked months of sometimes violent protests against the city’s dwindling freedoms and police behaviour.
China’s parliament last month approved plans to usher in sweeping legislation criminalising subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorism in Hong Kong – without local legislative oversight. Democrats and activists are concerned that protest rights, free speech and the city’s rule of law may be threatened.
Lam threw her weight behind a statement from Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, saying the law would largely “not be retroactive,” but she stopped short of expanding further.
“Without the details about the provisions in the legislation, and how they are going to be applied, it is not possible and not appropriate because I’m not party to the lawmaking institution to comment on the individual comments made by my mainland counterparts,” she said.
In a video message on Monday night, Lam condemned protesters and urged Hongkongers to support the security law. “Over the past year, the Hong Kong community has been traumatised. Violence by rioters has escalated, with illegal firearms and explosives posing a terrorist threat,” she said.
Additional reporting: Rachel Wong