Carrie Lam says Hong Kong has not become “just a Chinese city”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said national security law was “absolutely necessary” to ensure Hong Kong’s stability.

In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Lam said: “Looking back, I believe the adoption 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 continued stability and prosperity. “

“And if I may just add, stability is extremely important for Hong Kong to maintain and improve its status as an international financial center,” Hong Kong’s CEOs told CNBC’s Emily Tan and Martin Soong.

Lam also said that the exodus of foreigners and foreigners from Hong Kong in recent months was not due to the recently adopted national security law – seen by some as Beijing’s tightened grip on the city – but as a result of strict pandemic control and measures that “make people very impatient” ».

Carrie Lam, CEO of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong, South China, February 4, 2022.

Lui Siu Wai | Xinhua News Agency | Getty pictures

“One country, two systems”

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

Carrie Lam

CEO of Hong Kong

Lam insisted that Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy remained intact and did not expire until 2047, despite propaganda pressure from some Western media.

“I sometimes find it very disturbing that many Western media are trying 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 the Chinese mainland authorities believed that the “one country, two systems” principle was the “best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity”.

In addition to Beijing, Lam said she looked forward to “the continuation of the Constitution, including the maintenance of individual rights and freedoms, the practice of Hong Kong’s capitalist system, and all the high degree of autonomy that has been granted to Hong Kong.” “

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

National Security Act

Despite the protests and riots, the implementation of the National Security Act and the previous extradition law were necessary for Hong Kong to find the right laws to protect national interests, Lam said.

She said this was crucial since Hong Kong had not yet established its own institutions and judicial systems to protect national interests, security and sovereignty more than two decades after the surrender to China.

Freedoms are not absolute. Freedoms must in a way be limited, where there is a public interest. And no public interest can be more paramount than national interest.

Carrie Lam

CEO of Hong Kong

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

“Freedoms are not absolute,” Lam told CNBC. “Freedoms must be limited in a way, where there is a public interest. And no public interest can be more paramount 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 adoption of the National Security Act, Hong Kong was a vacuum in terms of these institutions and laws.”

About Covid and sanctions

Ahead of the two-year anniversary of the adoption of the National Security Act, the city continues to suffer from increasing departures from foreign talent and international operations, but Lam said it was a temporary blip.

Hong Kong’s resilience is in full swing as the number of people traveling to the city has increased since quarantine periods were reduced to one week and the lifting of the ban on travelers from nine countries, including the UK and US on April 1, Lam. so.

Daily arrivals at Hong Kong International Airport tenfolded to 3,000 per day compared to 300 when the entire package of restrictions was in place before April, according to Lam.

… in order to carry out our duty of loyalty, we must not be intimidated – whether by abuse, by force, by sanctions or by other means.

Carrie Lam

CEO of Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s strict Covid-19 containment strategies were necessary to protect Hong Kong’s main travel corridor into the mainland, Lam said, but denied that they were just a copy of mainland China’s zero-Covid approach that has led entire cities like Shanghai to become closed. and financially paralyzed.

“The Hong Kong SAR government has a high degree of autonomy in deciding how to deal with a public health crisis. But the reality is that our people need to travel to the mainland, but at the same time we need a very strong international connection,” she said.

“That is why over the last two and a half years we have been trying to find a balance that will enable us to achieve both goals.”

In some of her last words of farewell before leaving office to make room for the new incumbent Hong Kong leader John Lee on July 1, Lam says she will shrug off the sanctions the United States imposed on her and other seniors in 2020 over the handling of the city’s protests for freedoms.

“I think those who impose sanctions on other people, elsewhere, need to reflect on using this instrument to achieve their goals,” she said.

“I and 11 other Hong Kong officials [were] aggressively and unreasonably sanctioned by the US government, but they will not scare us. I do not regret it and I have no problem with it. “

“I would also like to give this advice to my successor and other senior officials: that in order to carry out our duty of loyalty, we must not be intimidated – whether by abuse, by force, by sanctions or by other means.”