Chief Executive Carrie Lam has sought to assuage concerns over a crackdown on liberties following the enactment of Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, saying “this is not doom and gloom.”
“I have not seen widespread fears among Hong Kong people in the last week and my response, as some of the legal experts have commented in the past few days, this national security law is relatively mild as far as national security laws are concerned,” she told reporters on Tuesday ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting.
Her comments came the morning after the government gazetted a provision handing local police broad powers to conduct warrantless property searches and intercept communications under controversial legislation which criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.
China’s top decision-making body rubber-stamped the final draft of the law last Tuesday, prompting an international outcry as foreign governments announced plans to establish “humanitarian” channels to aid fleeing Hongkongers. The UK last Wednesday said it would introduce a pathway to British citizenship for some 2.6 million residents in its former colony with a British National (Overseas) passport.
But Lam pointed to the markets as evidence of positive reaction to the enactment as “restoring stability to Hong Kong” after months of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.
The city’s stock market benchmark – the Hang Seng Index – climbed by 2.9 per cent on the first day of trading since Wednesday’s legislation enactment, which coincided with a public holiday. Last week, Bloomberg cited analysts as saying that there were signs that mainland Chinese buying was behind some of the recent gains.
The chief executive defended Beijing’s decision to impose the laws without local legislative oversight as one to be taken on a national level concerning matters outside of the city’s “high degree of autonomy.”
“By now it should be wishful thinking for us to expect [the Legislative Council] in the current political climate to pass any national security law,” she said, in reference to the pro-Beijing dominated parliament which has been paralysed with democrats continuing to obstruct proceedings.
Lam also hit back against allegations that the draft legislation was hidden from local authorities before its enactment. Her comments came after government officials were criticised for showing unanimous support, despite failing to answer questions about the details of the measures leading up their enactment.
“It is much regretted that my comment… in response to a media enquiry that the HKSAR chief has not seen complete details of the proposed legislation, was misrepresented or deliberately exaggerated as the HKSAR chief being totally kept in the dark. That is not the truth.”