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HK leader says proposed national security law not a threat to freedoms
HONG Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that Beijing's proposed national security law for the city, which has raised alarm in the global financial centre and abroad, would not trample on its cherished rights and freedoms.
Business leaders, international trade chambers and diplomats have said pushing through the legislation could mark a turning point for China's freest city, having an impact on a broad spectrum of its activities and intensify social unrest.
Mrs Lam spoke as online forums called for a general strike and protests on Wednesday against a national anthem law that is due for its second reading in the city's Legislative Council, stoking renewed concern over what many see as Beijing's encroachment over the city.
The anthem law would criminalise disrespect of China's national anthem and critics say it would further erode freedoms in the former British colony.
"There is no need for us to worry," Mrs Lam told a regular weekly news conference in a bid to allay concern over Beijing's intention to directly enact the national security law.
"In the last 23 years, whenever people worried about Hong Kong's freedom of speech and freedom of expression and protest, time and again, Hong Kong has proven that we uphold and preserve those values," she said.
Like others supporting the legislation, she did not explain how the freedoms that Hong Kong enjoy would be upheld.
The United States has branded the law a "death knell" for the city's autonomy and Britain said it was deeply concerned by a law that it said would undermine the "one country, two systems" principle under which Hong Kong is governed.
Hong Kong's Bar Association said the draft had "worrying and problematic features".
According to a draft proposal last week, the legislation aims to tackle secession, subversion and terrorist activities.
It could see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in one of the world's biggest financial hubs.
Hong Kong's Department of Justice warned against "unwarranted speculation" over the legislation.
Victor Li, son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, said in a statement he hoped the law would help bring stability to the city and normalise social and economic activities.
On Sunday, police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of people who thronged the streets to protest against the proposed legislation and arrested almost 200.It was the first major protest since pro-democracy demonstrations rocked Hong Kong last year over an unsuccessful plan to introduce an extradition law with China. REUTERS