Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam lashed out at U.S. officials who have visited the city in recent days, in a press conference on Oct. 14—the day before she will give her annual policy address.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), while speaking to the media in Hong Kong on Oct. 13, stated “Hong Kong is in danger of sliding towards a police state and that representative government in Hong Kong is at risk,” according to local media RTHK. He added that the one country two systems model was also at risk.
Lam, when asked about Hawley’s “police state” comment, said that U.S. officials had come to the city with “preconceived views about Hong Kong situations” and they failed to look at the situations in a “comprehensive and objective manner.”
Beijing’s intentions are on display in Hong Kong: it seeks to dominate the city, the region and ultimately the international system. Make no mistake: Chinese domination is a direct threat to US security & prosperity https://t.co/CDA1kuFg3f
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 14, 2019
“For this particular senator, to describe Hong Kong becoming a police state, is totally irresponsible and unfounded. The Hong Kong police force is a highly professional and civilized force,” she said.
Following Lam’s comment, Hawley took to Twitter to respond to the Chief Executive. “I chose the words ‘police state’ purposely—because that is exactly what Hong Kong is becoming. I saw it myself. If Carrie Lam wants to demonstrate otherwise, here’s an idea: resign,” he wrote.
Since June, local and international rights groups have repeatedly called out Hong Kong police for their violent tactics against protesters and journalists, including recent calls by London-based NGO Hong Kong Watch and the Foreign Correspondent Club in Hong Kong.
Two females, a medic and an Indonesian journalist, have been blinded in one eye after being hit with police’s projectiles. Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters have been hospitalized, including one college student who was shot at close range by police with a live round on Oct. 1.
Lam spent most of the press conference condemning “rioters” for their actions, including throwing petrol bombs at the police vehicles and their arson attacks against pro-Beijing lawmakers’ offices.
She stated that the attacks against these offices could be “politically motivated” because of the upcoming Hong Kong District Council elections in November.
In her address, she said that her government would ensure that the elections would be held openly and fairly, while failing to address recent attacks against two first-time candidates—Jocelyn Chau, 23, and Jannelle Leung, 25—-while they were campaigning on the streets.
Lam called on Hong Kong citizens to support the police force in their effort to bring “rioters” to justice, and called on peaceful protesters to “separate themselves” from these “rioters.”
Lam reprimanded protesters who blocked roads and damaged some businesses during the evening on Oct. 14, accusing them of violence after a peaceful rally earlier at the Charter Garden. It is unclear what businesses were affected, but protesters have previously targeted pro-Beijing stores for vandalism.
Lam’s Select Meetings
Aside from Hawley, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) was also in Hong Kong the past weekend, but Lam canceled their scheduled meeting when Cruz refused her requests to not speak with the media about their discussion.
During the press conference, Lam admitted to meeting with Carmen Cano, the head of the E.U. Office to Hong Kong and Macau, last week. She did not provide any details of the conversation.
South China Morning Post, citing an internal EU report it obtained, stated that Lam had told Cano that it was not possible to meet the protesters’ demand of universal suffrage, or their other demands because the protesters were a “mob.”
Lam added that she expected a “heavy defeat” for the pro-Beijing camp in the upcoming elections.
Lam also confirmed that she will be at the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Oct. 16 to deliver her annual policy address—refuting earlier speculations that she might not attend in person due to the ongoing protests. She said that her address will include new initiatives on housing and real estate.
Protests Continue, Seek US Support
In the evening on Oct. 14, over 130,000 people held a rally at Charter Garden in Central, urging the United States to pass legislation that has been named the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. They believe the Act would safeguard their fight for greater autonomy and democracy in a city that faces increasing encroachment by Beijing in its daily affairs.
According to Hong Kong media, both Cruz and Hawley sent representatives to the rally.
Lam also took a question about her anti-mask law, which she put in place at midnight on Oct. 4 after invoking a colonial-era emergency law, during the press conference. She said that like her initial expectations, she didn’t expect the law to immediately to take effect and quell the ongoing protests.
However, she added that the law has had a “deterrence effect” so far, particularly for those under 18.
When asked if she would invoke the emergency law to recruit more officers from the disciplinary services to support the current Hong Kong police force, she said that there would need to be exceptional reasons for her to invoke the law again.
In Hong Kong, the disciplinary services include government agencies such as the Fire Services Department, Immigration Department, and Correctional Services Departments.
Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the main organizer behind some of the city’s largest demonstrations in the last months, has called for a march from Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui to West Kowloon Station on Oct. 20 to protest the anti-mask law and call for its abolition.
In an online statement, CHRF wrote, “The anti-mask law deprives freedom of expression among Hong Kong citizens, and threatens everyone’s personal safety while exercising their rights to freedom of assembly.
“People of Hong Kong will not compromise, against the fact that Carrie Lam abuses her power to spoil the police force and repress our rights,” it added.