Carrie Lam says Hong Kong hasn’t become ‘just another Chinese city’

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the national security law was “absolutely necessary” to ensure Hong Kong’s stability.

In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Lam said, “Looking back, I think the enactment and implementation of a national security law, along with subsequent improvements to the electoral system, is absolutely necessary to ensure Hong Kong’s continued stability and prosperity.”

“And if I may just add, stability is extremely important for Hong Kong to maintain and improve its status as an international financial center,” Hong Kong’s chief executive told CNBC’s Emily Tan and Martin Soong.

Lam also said the exodus of expatriates and foreigners from Hong Kong in recent months was not due to the recently enacted national security law – seen by some as Beijing’s tightening grip on the country. city ​​- but following strict pandemic controls and measures that “make people very impatient”.

Carrie Lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong, south China, Feb 4, 2022.

Lui Siu Wai | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

“One country, two systems”

When people complain that there is no freedom, that is not the situation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is freer than ever.

Carrie Lam

Hong Kong general manager

Lam insisted that Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy remained intact and did not expire until 2047, despite propaganda being pushed by some Western media.

“I sometimes find it very disturbing that many Western media try to portray Hong Kong as another Chinese city and have no proper recognition or understanding of ‘one country, two systems,'” she said.

She said mainland officials believe the “one country, two systems” principle is the “best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.”

Alongside Beijing, Lam said she looked forward to “the continuation of what is in the Basic Law, including respect for individual rights and freedoms, practice of Hong Kong’s capitalist system and all the high degree of autonomy that has been granted to Hong Kong.”

“When people complain that there is no freedom, that is not the situation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is freer than ever, whether in freedom of speech, in freedom of meeting, in the media, etc.”

National Security Act

Despite protests and riots, implementation of the national security law and previous extradition bill was necessary for Hong Kong to find its bearings around the right laws to protect national interests, Lam said. .

She said this was crucial because Hong Kong had yet to put in place its own institutions and legal systems to protect national interests, security and sovereignty more than two decades after handover to China.

Freedoms are not absolute. Freedoms must be restricted in some way where there is a public interest. And no public interest could be more superior to the national interest.

Carrie Lam

Hong Kong general manager

Growing pains were part of this emancipation, as seen with other protests before 2019, including the 79-day Occupy Central movement in 2014 when protesters demanded direct universal suffrage to select the leader of the city, Lam said.

“Freedoms are not absolute,” Lam told CNBC. “Freedoms must be restricted in some way, where there is a public interest. And no public interest could be higher than the national interest.”

“Thus, every place should have rules and laws in place to safeguard the national sovereignty, security and development interests of the nation. Before the enactment of the National Security Law, Hong Kong was a vacuum in terms of relates to these institutions and laws.”

On the Covid and the sanctions

Ahead of the second anniversary of the enactment of the national security law, the city continues to suffer growing departures of foreign talent and international operations, but Lam said it was a temporary accident.

Hong Kong’s resilience is on full display with the number of people traveling to the city on the rise since the easing of quarantine periods to one week and the lifting of the ban on travelers from nine countries, including the United Kingdom. United and the United States on April 1, Lam said.

Daily arrivals at Hong Kong International Airport have increased tenfold to 3,000 a day from 300 when the full set of restrictions were in place before April, according to Lam.

…in order to fulfill our duty of loyalty, we must not be intimidated – whether through abuse, force, punishment or other means.

Carrie Lam

Hong Kong general manager

Hong Kong’s strict containment strategies against Covid-19 were necessary to protect Hong Kong’s main travel corridor to the mainland, Lam said, but denied they were just a copy of the zero approach. -Mainland China’s Covid that has shut down entire cities like Shanghai. and economically paralyzed.

“The Hong Kong SAR government has a high degree of autonomy to determine how to deal with a public health crisis. But the reality is that our people have to go to the mainland, but at the same time, we we need very strong international connectivity,” she said.

“That’s why, throughout the last two and a half years, we have tried to find a balance that will allow us to achieve both objectives.”

In some of her last farewell words before she steps down to make way for Hong Kong’s new in-demand leader, John Lee, on July 1, Lam says she will ignore any sanctions the US puts on her. imposed and other senior officials in 2020 during the city’s handling of freedom protests.

“I think those who impose sanctions on other people, in other places, have to think about using this instrument to achieve their goals,” she said.

“Me and 11 other officials in Hong Kong [were] aggressively and unreasonably sanctioned by the US government, but they will not intimidate us. I have no regrets and I have no problem with that.”

“I would also offer this advice to my successor and other senior officials: in order to fulfill our duty of loyalty, we must not be intimidated – whether by abuse, by force, by sanctions or other ways.”

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