Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says China’s new security law ‘won’t affect freedoms’

Hong Kong’s leader has claimed China’s plans for a new security law will not affect the territory’s rights and freedoms.

Beijing’s proposals to set up intelligence bases across Hong Kong have sparked widespread protests and international condemnation.

But Carrie Lam told residents: “There is no need for us to worry.”

Speaking at a weekly news conference on Tuesday, Ms Lam urged people to wait for further details about the security legislation.

She said: “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.

“The best thing is to see the legislation in front of us and to understand why at this point in time Hong Kong needs this piece of legislation.”

Ms Lam did not explain how China proposes to uphold the freedoms of those living and working in the global financial hub.

Several mainland politicians have tried to reassure island residents that the new law will not mean big changes.

But the plans would go back on the Chinese Communist Party’s promise to ensure Hong Kong’s rights for half a century as part of the “mini constitution” passed when Britain handed the territory back to Beijing in 1997.

Hong Kong tried to pass a security law in 2003, but it was put on hold after huge protests.

On Sunday, police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who broke coronavirus lockdown restrictions to publicly condemn the new security proposals.

Activists holding “free Hong Kong” signs were forced to flee the city’s Wanchai district when police in riot gear stepped in.

With the National People’s Congress, the annual meeting of China’s legislature, under way in Beijing, leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s Hong Kong protests.

The 2019 demonstrations over plans to allow Hong Kong to extradite islanders to the mainland crippled the territory for months.

More protests are expected in Hong Kong on Wednesday, against both national security laws and a bill due for a second reading in the city’s legislature that would criminalise abuse of China’s national anthem.

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