Hong Kong Leader Says Not Cooperating With US on Port Calls After China Retaliates Human Rights Bill

By Frank Fang
Epoch Times Staff

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam aligned herself with the Chinese regime in her weekly press conference on Dec. 3 over Beijing’s suspensions of U.S. port calls to the city.

In retaliation against the U.S. government for enacting the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Dec. 2 that Beijing had decided to “suspend reviewing requests of U.S. military vessels and aircraft to visit Hong Kong.”

Lam stood by Hua’s comments, saying that U.S. port visits are an issue of foreign affairs and need the ministry’s approval. Since the foreign ministry was no longer allowing it, Lam said her government wouldn’t be cooperating with the United States in this matter either.

There have been past incidences when Beijing has denied U.S. port calls to Hong Kong due to diplomatic disputes. In April 2016, a U.S. carrier strike group led by the USS John C. Stennis was denied entry after the U.S. vessels conducted operations in international waters in the disputed South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over 90 percent of the South China Sea, despite the fact that a United Nations legal judgment in 2016 refuted Beijing’s claims.

One unnamed U.S. Navy official told the Washington Examiner that the suspension won’t affect Navy operations since there are other ports in the region.

The United States’ Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act signed by President Donald Trump on Nov. 27 requires the Secretary of State to annually review whether the former British colony is “sufficiently autonomous” from mainland China to justify its special economic privileges granted under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

As for the new U.S. law, Lam stated, “We strongly are opposed to it. There’s no need for it, or any rationale for it.”

She went on to say that people in Hong Kong enjoy a “high-degree of freedom,” such as “freedom of the press and assembly.” She questioned what was “not being protected now.”

“For a foreign government to interfere with Hong Kong’s affairs, I find it regrettable,” Lam added.

Freedom in Hong Kong

However, after Lam implemented a controversial anti-mask law in October, banning people from wearing facial masks in public gatherings, New York-based nonprofit Human Rights Watch issued a statement expressing concerns about Hong Kongers’ freedoms. It said the mask ban was a “disproportionate restriction on peaceful assembly rights.”

In recent months, Hong Kong authorities have several times decided to deny granting approval to applications for public assemblies.

Pro-democracy activist group Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), which has canceled multiple planned marches after failing to secure police’s approval, announced on its Facebook page that it is currently waiting police approval for its planned march on Dec. 8.

Lam added during the press conference that, in her view, the new U.S. laws will affect business confidence and create instability for the more than 1,300 U.S. companies in the city.

Hongkongers who support the new U.S. laws have held two different public gatherings in the past week to show their appreciation to the U.S. government, particularly Trump, for signing the bill into law.

When asked about the protests in the past weekend, Lam said it was regrettable that there had been violence again, with roadblocks and petrol bombs thrown in Kowloon. She added that she had addressed the protesters’ five demands many times and had no more comment.

On Dec. 1, about 380,000 Hongkongers took to the streets in a peaceful march, renewing calls for all their five demands, which include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry over instances of police violence that have been seen in the past months.

In response to Lam’s press conference, pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting criticized Lam for neglecting instances of human rights violations, according to Hong Kong media RTHK.

The lawmaker cited examples of reporters having been unreasonably dispersed by police while covering protests. He added that the city government’s refusal to grant some public assemblies was also a violation of human rights.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while speaking at the University of Louisville on Dec. 2, urged Beijing to honor its promise made back in 199, according to a State Department transcript.

Hong Kong, the former British colony, was handed over to Beijing in 1997, after the two sides inked the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The bilateral treaty was to guarantee that Hong Kong retain its autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party and its freedoms for 50 years.

“Our efforts are to make sure that those weren’t empty promises that were made to the people of Hong Kong,” Pompeo stated.

Epoch Times staff Annie Wu contributed to this article.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer

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