HONG KONG • Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Beijing’s sweeping crackdown in the city she oversees has strengthened law and order and improved its business environment.
“We now have a better and more stable environment for business to flourish,” said Mrs Lam, who spoke in an interview aired on Tuesday at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit. “After a full year of chaotic situations, law and order has been restored.”
When pressed about the impact of national security legislation imposed on the city by Beijing in June, Mrs Lam said “a lot needs to be done to address people’s anxiety”. Still, she said, business sentiment has improved, with investors now focused more on opportunities – such as President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative – than on the new security legislation.
“If Hong Kong fared well in the past because of our gateway and our connector role, I would say these two aspects are very promising,” she said.
The introduction of the national security legislation led to an international outcry and prompted US sanctions against Mrs Lam and other officials. She recently said she was collecting “piles of cash” at home as the US measures barred her from basic banking services.
The United States announced further sanctions on Monday against 14 members of China’s legislature, over Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong.
Mrs Lam said the security law ultimately provides a safer and more secure environment for investors.
“We no longer see those chaotic scenes that had been disturbing and disrupting business for a very long time since June last year,” she said. “Nothing is more important than the rule of law, which has underpinned Hong Kong’s success in recent years.”
Mrs Lam said many unfair comments on Hong Kong emerging recently showed a lack of understanding of the “one country, two systems” framework.
It aims at preserving as much as possible the way of life and the systems in Hong Kong, and is built on the firm foundation of Hong Kong being an inalienable part of China, she said, stressing that one cannot deviate from the principle of “one country”.
Despite the reassurances of Mrs Lam and other officials, Hong Kong has continued to be rocked by political upheaval in recent weeks.
Last month, China passed a resolution allowing the disqualification of Hong Kong lawmakers deemed insufficiently loyal – prompting opposition legislators to resign en masse. Last week, three activists including Joshua Wong received jail sentences ranging from seven months to 131/2 months for their roles in a protest outside police headquarters last year.