Hong Kong leader says security law not a threat to freedoms

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporters' questions during a press conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Lam tried again Tuesday to defend a new national security law that China's parliament is going to impose on Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG – Hong Kong's leader said Tuesday that national security legislation proposed by China's legislature will not threaten the semi-autonomous territory's civil rights, despite widespread criticism of the move as an encroachment on freedom of speech and assembly.

The city's chief executive, Carrie Lam, told reporters that there was “no need for us to worry" over the move being considered by China's ceremonial National People's Congress.

“Hong Kong has proven that we uphold and preserve those values," Lam said. “Hong Kong needs this piece of legislation for the bigger benefit of the great majority of Hong Kong people.”

Lam also said that transit service would resume at Hong Kong's international airport on June 1, but that foreigners would still be banned from entering the city as part of measures to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections.

In Washington, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that President Donald Trump is "displeased with China’s efforts and that it’s hard to see how Hong Kong can remain a financial hub, if China takes over.” She declined to elaborate when asked to explain the statement further.

The move by China to pass the legislation signals the central government’s determination to take greater control of Hong Kong after months of pro-democracy protests last year. Beijing has appointed new representatives in Hong Kong who follow the hard line laid down by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is also the head of the ruling Communist Party.

Such a move has long been under consideration and was hastened by last year’s street protests in the former British colony, which was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing promised that the territory could retain its own relatively liberal civil, legal and economic systems that contrast starkly with the much more centrally controlled and authoritarian system in mainland China.

Some “foreign politicians” have “expressed untrue opinions” about the plan to impose the law on Hong Kong, Lam said, without giving details.