Hong Kong leader: U.S. involvement "unnecessary" and "inappropriate"

HONG KONG, Sept. 10 (UPI) — After a weekend that saw protesters call on the United States to support their pro-democracy movement and pass a proposed bill in Congress that would support human rights in Hong Kong, the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday called U.S. involvement “totally unnecessary” and “extremely inappropriate.”

Lam told reporters at a press briefing that Hong Kong already protected human rights under its Basic Law, the 1997 constitution that provides for a high degree of autonomy in legal and political affairs under the “one country, two systems” arrangement with China.

“To interfere into Hong Kong’s internal affairs in terms of what we are doing under the Basic Law protection of freedoms and liberties — this is totally unnecessary,” Lam told reporters at a briefing. “We ourselves have the obligation and the duty to comply with provisions in the Basic Law.”

Lam said that it is “extremely inappropriate” for another country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs.

“I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act,” she said, referring to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was introduced into Congress in June.

The bill would punish officials who suppress basic freedoms in Hong Kong with measures such as freezing their U.S.-based assets and denying them entry to the country. It has bipartisan support and several lawmakers have called it a priority for the new session of Congress, which started on Monday.

On Sunday, a crowd organizers estimated at 250,000 marched to the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong in a call for support, marking the 14th weekend in a row that mass protests have swept through the city of 7.5 million.

Lam’s gesture last week to fully withdraw the extradition bill that sparked the summer of protests did little to appease activists, whose demands have evolved into a movement that seeks to hold onto Hong Kong’s autonomy under Beijing’s growing influence.

Lam said on Tuesday that the withdrawal of the bill was not meant to directly end the protests, which have been marked by violent clashes, but to start a dialogue.

“Violence should be stopped for the benefit of Hong Kong but going forward to mend the rift in society and to bring back peace we are willing to engage people directly in a dialogue,” Lam said. “We are gearing up to go into the community to have that dialogue directly with the people. The first priority in order to achieve the objective of bringing peace and order to Hong Kong is for all of us, all people of Hong Kong, to say no to violence.”

Protesters, however, have shown no inclination to slow down their movement until all of their demands are met.

Beyond the withdrawal of the extradition bill, activists are calling for an investigation into police brutality during the demonstrations, amnesty for arrested protesters, dismissal of the official term “rioters” for protesters and direct elections to choose the city’s politicians.

More demonstrations have been announced for the weekend, including a “stress test” to disrupt transportation networks to Hong Kong’s airport on Saturday and a march on Sunday.

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