Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, has accused the United States of applying “double standards” in its response to violent protests and new national security laws planned for the territory as she warned Washington’s plan to place trade restrictions on the financial hub would “only hurt themselves”.
“We have seen most clearly in recent weeks the double standards that are around,” Lam, who was selected as city leader by a pro-Beijing committee, said on Tuesday.
“You know there are riots in the United States and we see how local governments reacted. And then in Hong Kong, when we had similar riots, we saw what position they adopted then,” she added.
Hong Kong has been rocked by months of huge and often violent protests over the past year, which riot police have stamped out with more than 9,000 arrests.
Washington has been critical of Hong Kong’s response to the protests with US President Donald Trump last week vowing to end the city’s special trading status after Beijing announced plans to impose a sweeping national security law on the business hub.
The law, which is yet to be drafted, will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and allow Chinese security agencies to operate in the city.
Beijing says the anti-subversion law – which will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature – is needed to tackle “terrorism” and “separatism”.
Critics have said the law will mean the end of the “one country, two systems” framework which allows Hong Kong considerable autonomy and freedoms unknown in mainland China.
At her weekly press conference, Lam said Hong Kong had spent 23 years failing to enact its own national security laws in the legislature, prompting Beijing to take the initiative.
“There is simply no justification whatsoever for any government, any economy, to impose sanctions on Hong Kong as a result of a very legitimate process of the central government, the central authorities, taking this decision to enact laws for Hong Kong to better protect national security,” she said.
“They will be hurting their own interests in Hong Kong,” she added, referencing US threats to restrict trade privileges.
Lam said around 1,300 American businesses have a presence in the financial hub, which generates the largest trade surplus for the US compared to any other country or territory, she added.
Hong Kong allows Americans to enter without a visa, a privilege that Lam said is not reciprocated.
Lam did not elaborate on whether visa-free travel could be rescinded in response to any trade sanctions but Chinese officials have vowed to implement “countermeasures” to any move by the US.