Lam ‘will not tol­er­ate any acts that ad­vo­cate HK in­de­pen­dence’

The New Paper - - NEWS -

HONG KONG Hong Kong will “fear­lessly take ac­tion” against in­de­pen­dence calls and pro­tect China’s in­ter­ests, leader Car­rie Lam said yes­ter­day.

Mrs Lam’s an­nual pol­icy ad­dress came as her gov­ern­ment stood ac­cused of at­tack­ing press free­doms for bar­ring a Fi­nan­cial Times (FT) jour­nal­ist from work­ing in Hong Kong af­ter he chaired a talk by in­de­pen­dence ac­tivist Andy Chan.

Any talk of in­de­pen­dence in­censes Bei­jing.

“I will not tol­er­ate any acts that ad­vo­cate Hong Kong’s in­de­pen­dence and threaten the coun­try’s sovereignty, se­cu­rity and de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ests,” Mrs Lam told leg­is­la­tors.

“We will fear­lessly take ac­tion against such acts ac­cord­ing to the law in or­der to safe­guard the in­ter­ests of the coun­try and Hong Kong.”

Be­fore the speech be­gan, prodemoc­racy law­mak­ers were es­corted from the cham­ber af­ter shout­ing “Pro­tect press free­dom” and wav­ing plac­ards.

Hong Kong is gov­erned un­der a semi-au­ton­o­mous One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems set-up, with free­doms that are pro­tected by a 50-year agree­ment made when Bri­tain handed the city back to China in 1997.

But there are con­cerns those rights are un­der threat.

Mrs Lam re­peat­edly em­pha­sised the no­tion of One Coun­try in her speech and made no ref­er­ence to free­dom of ex­pres­sion and of the press, a de­par­ture from last year’s ad­dress when she de­scribed those rights as “con­sti­tu­tional bul­warks”.

Mrs Lam and her gov­ern­ment have re­fused to ex­plain why the city de­nied a visa to the FT’s Asia news ed­i­tor Vic­tor Mal­let.

Bei­jing reg­u­larly de­nies visas to for­eign jour­nal­ists in China, but it has not been a tac­tic used in Hong Kong.

The move has sparked con­sid­er­able dis­quiet and anger among the city’s le­gal, busi­ness and me­dia sec­tors and calls for ex­pla­na­tion from govern­ments around the world in­clud­ing Bri­tain and the US.

Mr Chan’s tiny party has been banned since his press club talk in Au­gust on the grounds that it is a na­tional se­cu­rity threat, the first such ban since 1997.

Mrs Lam said the ban was a “strong tes­ti­mony” that the gov­ern­ment will use ex­ist­ing laws to sup­press in­de­pen­dence ac­tivism un­til the con­tro­ver­sial an­ti­sub­ver­sion law Ar­ti­cle 23 is in­tro­duced. Ar­ti­cle 23 is part of Hong Kong’s mini-con­sti­tu­tion but has never been im­ple­mented due to pub­lic fears it would cur­tail free­doms.

Mrs Lam has long said it is Hong Kong’s con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­tro­duce the law and added yes­ter­day the gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to “cre­ate a favourable so­cial en­vi­ron­ment” for the leg­is­la­tion.

Dozens of protesters gath­ered out­side the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil build­ing ahead of the speech, protest­ing against a range of is­sues in­clud­ing pen­sion re­form and ex­pen­sive in­fra­struc­ture projects. – AFP

PHOTO: AFP

Hong Kong leader Car­rie Lam.

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