Hong Kong Leader Lauds New Security Law11/25 06:35
HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam lauded the city's new national
security law on Wednesday as "remarkably effective in restoring stability,"
despite criticism that it is severely narrowing the space for free speech and
political opposition in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Lam said in her annual policy address that the law had prevented a return of
political unrest and that bringing normalcy back to the political system is an
Beijing imposed the security law on Hong Kong in June, aiming to crack down
on dissent following months of anti-government protests in the city that at
times descended into violence. Last year's protests were triggered by a
proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be
sent to the mainland. The proposal was eventually scrapped.
"Advocacies of Hong Kong independence and collusions with external forces
have progressively subsided, some of the prominent figures have kept a low
profile, radical organizations have ceased operations or dissolved," Lam said
in her address.
"After a year of social unrest with fear for personal safety, Hong Kong
people can once again enjoy their basic rights and freedoms, according to the
law," she added.
Lam also criticized foreign governments for interfering in Hong Kong's
affairs, saying it had jeopardized national security.
The security law's passage has drawn strong criticism among rights groups
and foreign governments, who say it betrays China's promise under the "one
country, two systems" framework to allow Hong Kong to maintain its own legal
system and civil liberties for 50 years following the handover from British to
Chinese control in 1997.
They point to the curtailing of free speech through the outlawing of
statements advocating Hong Kong's independence and criticism of China, the
pulling of books from public libraries with suspect political views and a new
emphasis on "patriotic education" in schools.
The U.S. responded to the new law by targeting a number of Chinese and Hong
Kong officials responsible for implementing the legislation with travel bans
and financial sanctions, Lam among them, and by moving to reduce Hong Kong's
special status with the imposition of higher tariffs and visa restrictions.
The U.S. and a number of other countries also suspended their extradition
treaties with Hong Kong, while Britain said it would allow holders of British
National (Overseas) passports extended stays and a path to citizenship. Taiwan
opened an office to help Hong Kongers interested in moving to the island.
Beijing has rejected all such actions and criticisms as brazen political
interference and taken an ever-tougher stance on dissent in Hong Kong.
Earlier this month, China passed a resolution disqualifying four
pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers after they were accused of violating their
oaths of office. The move prompted all of Hong Kong's pro-democracy legislators
to resign en masse as a show of solidarity.
Lam said Wednesday that Hong Kong has experienced one of its most severe
political challenges over the past year.
"One of our urgent priorities is to restore Hong Kong's constitutional order
and political system from chaos," she said.
She said the government would introduce a bill by the end of this year to
amend local laws related to oath-taking, to "deal with those who have engaged
in conduct that breaches the oath of the swearing-in."
Lam's address had been postponed for more than a month so she could seek
Beijing's support for various economic measures aimed at reviving Hong Kong's
A leader of pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong, Wu Chi-wai, criticized
Lam's policy address, saying it was "taking Hong Kong people to a wrong
direction" with policies including greater co-operation with China in areas
such as finance, aviation and technology.
"She bet the future of Hong Kong on the Greater Bay Area and the mainland
economy. It will ruin the international city of Hong Kong," Wu said. "We cannot
and should not ... put all our eggs on one particular economic territory."
Wu and other remaining pro-democracy legislators are expected to officially
step down from their positions by Dec. 1.