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

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

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

Lui Siu Wai | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

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, as well as the subsequent improvements to the electoral system, are absolutely necessary to ensure Hong Kong’s continuous stability and prosperity. “

“And if I may just add, stability is extremely important for Hong Kong to maintain and enhance 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 newly enacted national security law — seen by some as Beijing’s tightening of its grip over the city — but as a result of the the strict pandemic controls and measures that “make people very impatient.”

“Sometimes you need the difficult situations [protests] to weaken people, this is something that we needed to do. The enactment of the national security law and subsequent improvements to increase stability,” Lam said on CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia.”

“Stability is important to maintain enhanced Hong Kong as a financial center. Now that stability has been assured.”

When people complain there’s no freedom, this is not the situation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is as free as ever…

Carrie Lam

Hong Kong chief executive

After the reunification of Hong Kong with mainland China in 1997, laws were put in place to guarantee the practice of “one country, two systems” principle for 50 years — or until 2047.

Lam insisted that Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy remained intact and had not expired ahead of 2047, despite propaganda pushed by some Western media outlets.

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

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

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

“When people complain there’s no freedom, this is not the situation in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is as free as ever, whether it’s in the freedom of expression, in the freedom of assembly, in the media, and so on.”

Despite the protests and riots, the implementation of the national security law and the earlier extradition bill were needed for Hong Kong to find its feet around the right laws to protect national interests, Lam said.

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

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

“Freedoms are not absolute,” Lam said. “Freedoms have to be sort of restrained, where there is a public interest. And no public interest could be more superior than national interest.”

“So every place should have rules and laws in place to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests of the nation. Before the enactment of the national security law, Hong Kong was a vacuum insofar as those institutions and laws are concerned.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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