Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor lashed back at criticisms over the conviction of nine leaders of the Occupy Movement, calling them unwarranted and fallacious.
A spokeswoman for the European Union warned on Wednesday, a day after the nine pro-democracy activists were convicted for their roles in the 2014 protests, that the recent wave of court cases related to political activism “could have a detrimental effect” on the SAR’s democratic development.
The EU also said it expects Beijing and the SAR government to resume the electoral reform in Hong Kong that is line with the Basic Law to meet the aspirations for universal suffrage of Hong Kong people and achieve a democratic, fair and open election system.
Fundamental human rights and freedoms, including those of speech and peaceful assembly, are essential to Hong Kong’s success, the EU spokeswoman added.
In response, Lam told media that it would be irresponsible if she judged that the circumstances and conditions were right to restart political reform, adding that doing so now is likely to be divisive.
There is just no room to “stir up more troubles in society” at this time when Hong Kong has many development opportunities ahead, such as those brought by the Greater Bay Area plan, Lam said.
Right after the guilty verdicts were given on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s last colonial governor Chris Patten called the outcome of the trial “appallingly divisive”, noting that the government used “anachronistic common law charges” in “vengeful pursuit of political events” that happened in 2014.
Lam noted she has been aware of the fact that some local and foreign political figures and media outlets accuse the government of using judicial means as a political weapon or even taking political revenge.
But she said such comments are “totally unsubstantiated and unfounded”, and they will damage the city’s international reputation in terms of its rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
The Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong has an independent judiciary and the justice department controls criminal prosecutions, free from interference, Lam said.
She pointed out that the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong have long been recognized internationally, adding that it had not been easy for the city to earn its reputation.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, 22 pan-democratic lawmakers called the nine convicted Occupy leaders as political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
They said Beijing has not only ignored its promise of universal suffrage but has also tried to make use of the SAR government to eliminate dissent.
Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is a senior counsel, blasted the prosecution for using archaic common law charges that carry heavy penalties against the nine pro-democracy activists.
British MP Alistair Carmichael has raised an urgent question to the British government, saying the nine people may possibly be jailed for up to seven years and the case reflects the Chinese central government’s violation of human rights.
Responding to media questions at a regular press conference on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “The Hong Kong affairs fall within China’s internal affairs and any other country has no right to interfere.”
Lu said “such interference won’t work at all” and “it is not conducive to the sound development of relations between China and relevant parties”.
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