Beijing’s foreign affairs office in Hong Kong has slammed the United States over its “naked double standard and bullying acts” after Washington said in an annual report to Congress that the city’s high degree of autonomy was being severely eroded. Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok on Saturday also defended the broad scope of potential legal changes raised by the city government, derived from Beijing’s ruling, to give the chief executive final say on whether overseas lawyers can take up national security cases, including civil ones. Lam spoke hours after Washington on Friday released its annual Hong Kong Policy Act report , which argued the ruling “could significantly increase the authority of Hong Kong’s executive branch over the judiciary” and represented further deterioration of the city’s rule of law. In a strongly worded statement issued on Saturday, a spokesman for Beijing’s foreign affairs office in Hong Kong accused Washington of meddling in the city’s affairs. “The US itself has a rigorous national security system, but attacks China’s legitimate measures to safeguard national security and exaggerates the chilling effect of the national security law,” he said. “The naked double standard and bullying acts of the US only exposed its dark mentality of seeking to disrupt Hong Kong, and its ulterior motive of using Hong Kong to contain China under the guise of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. National security law’s effects undercut Hong Kong freedoms, says US report “We urge the US side to recognise the facts, mind its own business, stop all self-humiliating moves and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any form.” The State Department’s report to Congress on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong is mandated by legislation that codified United States relations with the city after its return to Chinese rule in 1997. While the report acknowledged a continued degree of autonomy in Hong Kong, it stated the national security law and the “patriots-only” electoral changes, introduced in the aftermath of the 2019 anti-government protests and which undercut prospects for opposition political parties, had eroded differences between the city and mainland China too extensively for US law to apply differently. Hong Kong’s biggest lawyer group to voice doubts over security law on Beijing trip The Hong Kong government on Saturday also rejected what it called “unfounded and fact-twisting remarks” by Washington, saying the US’ attempt to undermine the city’s stability and prosperity “will only expose its own weakness and faulty arguments and be doomed to fail”. In February, Hong Kong’s Department of Justice proposed a series of amendments to the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, which would require courts to obtain the chief executive’s approval before an overseas lawyer is allowed to take on a national security case. The city leader can deny permission if the counsel’s participation is deemed “contrary to the interests of national security”. ‘Foreign lawyers in national security cases still face immigration laws’ The legal amendments were introduced on the heels of the ruling by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the nation’s top legislative body, which effectively left the decision in Hong Kong’s hands. On a radio show on Saturday morning, Lam fended off claims the government’s proposal was so broad it could cover civil cases as well. “The national security law has handed law enforcement agencies some public powers to search or intercept communications,” he said, adding such authority also extended to officials. “These powers could be subject to judicial reviews, which are civil in nature.” Lam said it was highly unlikely for other civil cases that were not judicial reviews to touch on national security. Last month, the Department of Justice introduced two new requirements on top of the amendments earlier proposed to require an overseas lawyer to obtain a “Notice of Permission to Proceed” from the city’s leader before filing for ad hoc admission with the court. Lam said the new requirement was meant to screen out cases with no reasonable grounds to avoid wasting judiciary resources.