HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday US legislation supporting protesters may damage business confidence in the financial hub, as she announced a fourth round of relief measures to boost the city’s battered economy.
Lam told reporters the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act signed into US law last week was “wholly unnecessary”, as the former British colony grapples with its first recession in a decade.
The act requires the US State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable US trading terms, and threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
“The impact currently is on confidence […] because corporates will be worried about the actions the US government may take in the future after they review this legislation,” Lam said.
The unrest has hammered retail sales which fell by their steepest on record in October as protests scared off tourists and hit spending.
China on Monday banned US military ships and aircraft from visiting Hong Kong – a rest and recreation stop for the US Seventh Fleet – in retaliation for the US legislation.
Lam said approvals for such port visits were a matter for China’s Foreign Ministry.
Hong Kong has been rocked by six months of unrest in the biggest challenge to Chinese stability since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
China denies interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” formula enshrined at the handover and guaranteeing the territory a high degree of autonomy. Beijing blames foreign countries including the United States for inciting unrest.