Nov. 25 (UPI) — Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Wednesday praised a draconian national security law for restoring stability to the former British colony while blaming the region’s social and economic strife on government critics and foreign interference.
Before lawmakers absent opposition politicians who resigned in protest earlier this month, Lam gave her fourth annual policy address from the Legislative Council, describing the “multiple blows” that have been dealt to the region in the last year, including mass pro-democracy protests and “acts that endangered national security due to interference by external forces.”
Lam told the lawmakers the “one country, two systems” constitutional model that Hong Kong has functioned under since returning from British to Chinese rule in 1997 “is still not completed” with the “one country” aspect having yet to be reinforced. This has allowed “ill-intentioned people influenced by external forces” to mislead the public and cause Hong Kong to experience “the most severe political challenges since its return to the motherland.”
To fix this and to support this constitutional model, she said Beijing in July instituted a national security law that has been “remarkably effective in restoring stability in Hong Kong” through forcing pro-independence activities to subside, prominent protest figures to be less public and their organizations to disband.
The law criminalizes acts seen as a threat to China with harsh punishments and has been widely condemned by human rights organizations and Western countries as well as the United Nations for being a tool that could be used for arbitrary arrests to silence government opposition. Some, including the United States, have described it as the end of the constitutional model that affords Hong Kong freedoms the mainland does not have. Since its implementation, the law has been used to arrest people for chanting pro-independence songs and waving flags in support of the movement.
In response, at least nine countries have ended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong while Britain and Canada have announced initiatives to support immigration from the city.
The United States has taken a strong stance against the law, passing legislation to sanction those responsible for whittling away Hong Kong’s democracy while revoking its special trade status.
Lam on Wednesday defended the law, stating Hong Kong posed a severe national security risk and that the situation had evolved to such a state the central government had “no alternative but to step in and take action.”
She said to make Hong Kong again one of the safest cities in the world they will take stringent law enforcement actions to punish lawbreakers, stating more than 2,300 people are being prosecuted in connection to last year’s protests.
“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 said.