Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam calls out 'double standards' on national security, points to US

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said many accusations related to the proposed legislation were unfounded.
PHOTO: Reuters

HONG KONG - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam accused foreign governments of  “double standards” in their reaction to Beijing’s plans to impose national security laws on the city, pointing to protests against police brutality in the United States. 

In her first public appearance after Washington said it would remove Hong Kong’s preferential treatment in US law in response to Beijing’s proposal, Mrs Lam warned countries threatening actions against the city that they may hurt their own interests. 

“They are very concerned about their own national security, but on our national security... they look through tinted glasses,” she told a weekly news conference. 

“In the US, we see how the riots were being handled by the local governments, compared to the stance they adopted when almost the same riots happened in Hong Kong last year.”

Having lost patience with Hong Kong after large-scale and often-violent pro-democracy protests last year plunged the Chinese-ruled city into its biggest crisis in decades, Beijing authorities last month advanced plans to introduce laws tackling secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference. 

The laws could also see Chinese intelligence agencies set up shop in the global financial hub. 

US President Donald Trump, saying Hong Kong was no longer sufficiently autonomous from Beijing as promised at the time of the 1997 handover of the territory by Britain, said Hong Kong would no longer be treated differently from mainland China in US law. 

Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have repeatedly insisted rights and freedoms would be preserved, remarks echoed by Mrs Lam on Tuesday (June 2).

She said “public concerns” about the legislation were understandable, as a draft was yet to be finalised. 

In Washington on Monday, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse peaceful demonstrators near the White House as Mr Trump vowed a massive show of force to end violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody. 

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Dozens of cities across the US remain under curfews not seen since riots after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Police in some places were also seen joining marches and kneeling in solidarity with the protesters. 

Protesters in Hong Kong have mainly been asking for universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into how police handled the demonstrations. 

Hong Kong, where protesters reject Mrs Lam’s description of the anti-government demonstrations as riots, has not enforced curfews.

Police have been accused of disproportionate use of force, which officials have denied. 

Beijing visit

In a separate statement, the Hong Kong government said Mrs Lam will travel to Beijing on Wednesday to share her views on the legislation.

The top officials for the justice and security departments, Secretaries Teresa Cheng and John Lee, and police chief Chris Tang will join her.  

The legislation revived protests in Hong Kong last month, prompting police to fire pepper pellets in the heart of the financial district and make hundreds of arrests.  

Demonstrations could continue in coming days, including against a controversial bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem, due for further debate in the legislature on Wednesday.  

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Police this week rejected for the first time in three decades an application to hold an annual vigil on June 4 to mark the anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire on protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, citing coronavirus concerns after new local transmissions were reported in the city. 

Mrs Lam has repeatedly said a ban on gatherings larger than eight people was to maintain social distancing and had no political overtones.  

The restrictions also threaten plans for legally organising anniversary marches of the anti-government protests that started in June last year.  

Calls for Hong Kong people to light candles across the city on June 4 and for further demonstrations to be held throughout the month have emerged online anyway.