Lam says next US president should not interfere in Hong Kong

BEIJING (AP) — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Friday that whoever wins the U.S. presidential election should end U.S. interference in the internal affairs of her city and China overall.

She accused the Trump administration of repeatedly interfering over the past year, citing U.S. sanctions on officials including herself and the suspension of special trading conditions previously granted to Hong Kong.

“That is totally unreasonable,” she said at a news conference wrapping up a four-day visit to Beijing. “I hope that they will come back to normalcy and accept that the relationship has to be built on mutual respect and cooperation.”

The U.S. took issue earlier this year with China’s enactment of a national security law for Hong Kong which was designed in part to snuff out pro-democracy protests that rocked the city for months last year.

The Trump administration backed democracy activists who said that the law ended the “one country, two systems” framework under which Hong Kong is part of China but given a high degree of autonomy over local affairs.

Lam said the national security law has been an effective deterrent after pitched battles between demonstrators and police during protests last year. Some more radical protesters attacked businesses seen as pro-Beijing and set fires in the streets. They said the escalating tactics were necessary to get the attention of a government that was ignoring their demands.

“Hong Kong has recovered its stability and has not seen any large-scale violent incidents,” Lam said. “With this stable environment we can focus on economic development and improving people’s lives.”

Earlier Friday, Lam met with a top Chinese Communist Party official who endorsed her rule, saying her government had restored order and revived the economy.

Vice Premier Han Zheng, one of seven members of the party’s top leadership body, praised her administration for implementing the national security law and protecting Hong Kong’s stability, and for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, easing the economic burden on the population.

Under Lam, the government has “overcome all kinds of difficulties and dealt with the challenges,” he said.

It was a far cry from a year ago, when parts of the city were awash in tear gas and Lam’s leadership and ability to return peace to her city seemed to be in question.

China responded by enacting the national security law, which curtailed protests that were already dwindling because of coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings.

Lam was accompanied on her visit by several top city officials, which she said demonstrates the breadth of Hong Kong’s integration into China’s national development.

She was heading from Beijing to Guangdong, the southern province that borders Hong Kong, for economic talks on the Greater Bay Area, a region that also includes nearby Macao.

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