HK leader maintains new security laws won't hurt rights, freedoms
HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said yesterday that Beijing's proposed national security laws would not trample on the city's rights and freedoms and called on citizens to wait to see the details of the legislation.
Mrs Lam added her voice to an unprecedented barrage of statements by Beijing and local officials and former city leaders defending the legislation and seeking to reassure residents, investors and diplomats about Hong Kong freedoms.
"There is no need for us to worry," Mrs Lam told a regular weekly news conference.
Like others supporting the legislation, she did not explain how the freedoms that Hong Kong enjoys will be upheld.
Said Mrs Lam: "The best thing is to see the legislation in front of us and to understand why at this point in time Hong Kong needs this piece of legislation."
According to a draft proposal last week, the legislation aims to tackle secession, subversion and terrorist activities.
It could see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in one of the world's biggest financial hubs.
Thousands poured onto the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a mass protest against the laws. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd and arrested almost 200 people.
It was the first major protest since pro-democracy demonstrations rocked Hong Kong last year over an unsuccessful plan to introduce an extradition law with China.
More protests are expected in Hong Kong today.
As many Hong Kong people fret about national security laws, demand for virtual private networks surged six-fold last Thursday, the day the plans were unveiled.
Hong Kong is governed under a "one country, two systems" formula that is meant to guarantee it a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not seen in mainland China, including freedom of expression and the right to protest.
Beijing and local officials have toughened their rhetoric recently, describing some of the acts in the protests as "terrorism" and attempts of "secessionism", remarks echoed by Mrs Lam yesterday.
Opinion polls show only a minority of Hong Kong people support independence, which is anathema to Beijing. - REUTERS