Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has taken issue with a US congressional commission report that suggested that Hong Kong was regressing on freedoms and rule of law due to Beijing’s tightening grip on the territory.
Responding to the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) which warned that Hong Kong was losing its special character and becoming just another Chinese city, Lam said on Thursday that the panel’s conclusions in the report were unfounded.
Accusing the congressional commission of looking at Hong Kong-China relations through a “colored lens”, Lam dismissed fears that Hong Kong was moving backward on freedoms and rule of law.
Speaking to reporters at the airport before departing for Papua New Guinea to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2018 Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Lam criticized the US report as being biased, and charged the panel with double standard in looking at the relationship between the central government and Hong Kong.
The USCC, in an annual report released on Wednesday, said China has been encroaching on freedoms in Hong Kong, and that rule of law is gradually moving backwards in the city as a result.
Claiming such situation could erode Hong Kong’s standing as a global business hub, the commission suggested that Washington should review the treatment of Hong Kong and China as separate customs areas for technology exports.
Hong Kong authorities were very unhappy about the report, as it had sparked concern among local companies, especially those engaging in technology-related businesses, about the city potentially being clubbed together with mainland China in terms of US policy treatment and tariffs.
Lam stressed on Thursday the “one country, two systems” principle has been successfully implemented in Hong Kong and that the city has been ranked the world’s freest economy.
She also added that Hong Kong has consistently figured among the top in global rankings on the issue of rule of law, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports..
Noting that United States had a US$34.5 billion trade surplus with Hong Kong last year and that more than half of the 1,351 American firms doing business in Hong Kong use the city as a location for regional headquarters or offices, Lam warned that any change to US trade policy on Hong Kong will not only be unfair to the city but will also affect US interests.
Lam vowed that she will discuss the issue with the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong after she returns from the APEC meeting, and explain to the chamber that Hong Kong is capable of keeping good record in terms of freedoms and human rights.
Prior to Lam’s remarks, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who also called the US congressional report biased and said it reflects the views of a handful of politicians, said Hong Kong has been enjoying a great degree of freedom as well as fulfilling its responsibilities as a separate customs area.
Cheung added that the Hong Kong government will convey “the facts” to Washington through its US-stationed officials and the US Consulate General in Hong Kong.
Some opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, said Hong Kong’s status in the international community will be definitely impacted if the territory is no longer treated as a separate customs area.
Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun urged the government not to take the contents of the US congressional report lightly.
Willy Lin Sun-mo, honorary chairman of Hong Kong Exporters’ Association, said being a separate customs area has been a key edge enjoyed by Hong Kong.
If the US decides to stop treating Hong Kong as a separate customs area vis-a-vis mainland China, it could prompt other countries to follow suit, Lin warned.
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