HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday accused foreign governments of “double standards” in its reaction to Beijing’s plans to introduce the city’s national security laws, pointing to protests against police brutality in the United States.
Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam, wearing a mask due to the ongoing global outbreak of the corona virus (COVID-19), speaks during a news conference on the new national security legislation in Hong Kong, China June 2, 2020. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu
In its first public appearance after Washington said it would remove Hong Kong’s preferential treatment in US law in response to Beijing’s plans, Lam warned countries threatening measures against the city that they could harm their own interests.
“They are very concerned about their own national security, but for our national security … they see through tinted glasses,” Lam told a weekly conference.
“In the US, we see how the uprisings were handled by the local authorities, compared to the attitude they adopted when almost the same riot happened in Hong Kong last year.”
After losing patience with Hong Kong after large-scale and often violent protocols in the Chinese-controlled city last year, the Beijing authorities last month made plans to introduce laws dealing with isolation, subversion, terrorism and foreign intervention.
The laws could also see Chinese intelligence agencies set up shop in the global financial hub.
U.S. President Donald Trump said that Hong Kong was no longer sufficiently autonomous from Beijing, as promised in the 1997 surrender of the territory of the United Kingdom, said that Hong Kong will no longer be treated differently from China in the U.S. law.
Hong Kong and Beijing authorities insist that rights and freedoms will be preserved, Lam commented on Tuesday. She said the “public concern” about the legislation was understandable as a draft was yet to be finalized.
In Washington, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse peaceful protesters near the White House on Monday when Trump promised a massive show of violence to end violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody.
Dozens of American cities remain under curfew that was not seen since the riots following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Police in some places were also seen joining marches and knees in solidarity with the protesters.
Protesters in Hong Kong have primarily asked for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into how the police handled the demonstrations.
Hong Kong, where protesters reject Lam’s description of the demonstrations as riots, has not enforced curfew. The police have been charged with disproportionate use of force, which officials have denied.
In a separate statement, the Hong Kong government said Lam will travel to Beijing on Wednesday to share his views on the legislation. The top officials of the Justice and Security Departments, Secretaries Teresa Cheng and John Lee, and Police Chief Chris Tang will join her.
The legislation revived the 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 may continue in the coming days, including against a controversial bill that would criminalize unsatisfactory China’s national anthem, to be discussed in the legislature on Wednesday.
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 concerns about corona virus after new local transfers were reported in the city.
Lam has repeatedly said that a ban on gatherings greater than eight people was to maintain social distance and had no political overtones.
The restrictions also threaten plans for legally organizing anniversary marches for the protests against the government, which began in June last year.
Calls for Hong Kong people to light the city on June 4 and for further demonstrations to be held throughout the month have surfaced online anyway.
Reporting by Clare Jim; Author of Marius Zaharia; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan