Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hits back at ‘prejudiced comments’ that question city’s high degree of autonomy
City’s chief executive says it was her duty to dispel misconceptions after ‘misunderstandings’ and ‘prejudiced comments’ were made over ‘one country, two systems’
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has shot back at those who make “prejudiced comments” about the city, telling them to not take things at face value and declaring that part of her job is to dispel such misconceptions.
The chief executive’s role in defending the city’s high degree of autonomy was questioned after US State Department officials revealed she refused to hand over a fugitive to the United States last year “at the behest” of Beijing – the first since the city’s handover from Britain to China in 1997.
The report unveiled last week fuelled doubts over whether the city’s high degree of autonomy – which is guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” guiding principle – was at stake. But Lam had strongly objected to the US government’s allegation that she did so on Beijing’s orders last year.
Without directly referring to the recent extradition saga, Lam on Wednesday said there had been “quite a bit of misunderstanding or prejudiced comments” about the implementation of the “one country, two systems” blueprint in the city.
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“Of course it lies on the shoulders of the chief executive to continue to dispel those misperceptions and misunderstandings,” Lam told the Urban Land Institute Asia Pacific Summit.
She also called on people, especially those overseas, to look deeper into Hong Kong’s situation and read more broadly, “instead of just taking on face value that this high degree of autonomy has been eroded”.
The “unique” constitutional position of the chief executive – where he or she would be responsible to both Hongkongers and the central government – had been one of her major challenges in office, she added.
Meanwhile, Lam also reflected on her first year in office ahead of the anniversary on July 1, calling it “extremely tiring, challenging and fulfilling” where “months actually pass like days”.
She claimed she had delivered her election pledge to work closely with lawmakers across the political spectrum and that the social atmosphere had improved.
“Many people told me last year or so that Hong Kong has become calmer. People are more willing to talk and to get things done,” said Lam, adding that the government’s funding requests are on track to be approved without being stalled by filibusters.
Funding of HK$170 billion is expected to be approved this year by the legislature, she added, which would be the highest level in the last five years.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said Lam should face squarely what had prompted the international community to raise concerns over Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, instead of dismissing them straight away.
“Lam should not have adopted the same attitude as Beijing but to reflect on how she could avoid others to float such concerns,” he said. “That, instead, should be her responsibility as the chief executive.”
Wu also said the ties between the executive branch and the legislature would not be truly mended if the government continued to forcibly push contentious bills ahead, such as the joint-checkpoint proposal, without addressing all the public concerns.
The plan, which is expected to be put to vote next week, would allow national laws to be enforced in part of the local terminus of the city’s cross-border high-speed rail link that is leased to the mainland authorities.