HONG KONG (The Straits Times/ANN): The city will turn the corner with the new national security law in place, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declared on Wednesday morning (July 1), hours before a planned march by some defiant opposition activists that set the stage for possible clashes.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who begins her fourth year in a five-year term on Wednesday, said the move by Beijing is a historic step forward for the relationship between the city and the mainland.
Calling it a “necessary and timely” move to restore stability, she said the law only targets an extremely small number of people who threaten national security, and that most people’s property, basic rights and freedoms would be safeguarded.
Speaking at the reception held to mark the 23rd anniversary of the change from British rule to the Chinese, Lam was visibly emotional as she recounted how the past year had been the most challenging time in her career as she faced vicious personal attacks while worrying about the city’s future.
She promised to use the last two years of her tenure to revive Hong Kong’s economy and its global reputation, rebuild the government’s relationship with the young and restore social order.
Chief of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong Luo Huining said having the law is a turning point for the city to help it move from chaos to order.
He noted that the central government had not imposed taxes on the city and instead rolled out a series of beneficial measures which show that it means well.
The speeches came after dozens of officials and guests, including former leaders Tung Chee Hwa, Leung Chun Ying and Donald Tsang, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma and Beijing’s liaison office chief Luo Huining, witnessed the annual flag-raising event at Golden Bauhinia Square.
The flag-raising ceremony was canned last year at the peak of the oft-violent anti-government movement that lasted more than half a year.
The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), organiser of some of the city’s biggest demonstrations, on Tuesday night (June 30) told the media that its appeal against a police ban on the annual July 1 march was dismissed.
The ban is the first since the territory’s handover to Chinese rule in 1997.
But CHRF deputy convenor Figo Chan pledged to march anyway, while Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi Wai urged people to protest peacefully to protect Hong Kong’s core values.
The opposition camp in Hong Kong and activists have slammed the new law, saying it erodes freedoms and human rights.
Pan-democratic lawmakers on Tuesday night, just hours before the law took effect, said there was a lack of transparency in the way the law was rushed through.
They described the law as the death knell for the “one country, two systems” principle where Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy.
Security has been beefed up in the days leading to the handover anniversary, with 3,000 to 6,000 policemen deployed and roads closed, local media reported. - The Straits Times/Asia News Network
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