Carrie Lam says US law to hurt business confidence

December 03, 2019 12:39
Chief Executive Carrie Lam: "Corporates will be worried about the actions the US government may take in the future after they review this legislation." Photo: ISD

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said US legislation supporting protesters may damage business confidence in the financial hub, as she announced a fourth round of relief measures to boost the city’s battered economy.

Speaking to reporters before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act signed into US law last week was “wholly unnecessary” as the city grapples with its first recession in a decade.

The act requires the US State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable US trading terms, and threatens sanctions for human rights violations.

“The impact currently is on confidence ... because corporates will be worried about the actions the US government may take in the future after they review this legislation,” Lam said.

She did not specify what additional measures would be taken to boost economic activity, saying details would be announced in the near term.

The government has previously offered relief of about HK$21 billion (US$2.7 billion) to support the economy, particularly the transport, tourism and retail sectors.

The unrest has hammered retail sales which fell by their steepest on record in October as protests scared off tourists and hit spending.

China on Monday banned US military ships and aircraft from visiting Hong Kong – a rest and recreation stop for the US Seventh Fleet – in retaliation for the US legislation.

Lam said approvals for such port visits were a matter for China’s Foreign Ministry.

Hong Kong has been rocked by six months of sometimes violent unrest in the biggest challenge to Chinese stability since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Activists have pledged to hold lunch-time rallies throughout the week after a mass demonstration over the weekend when police fired tear gas to disperse crowds of protesters.

Hundreds of office workers gathered in Central on Monday in support of the pro-democracy movement after it scored a resounding victory in the Nov. 24 District Council elections.

Lam has renewed her appeals for peace but her administration has failed to offer any concessions to the protest movement despite the election results. Reuters

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