'No need for us to worry': Hong Kong's freedoms won't be affected by new security laws, Carrie Lam says

Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam. Source: Getty Images

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has sought to downplay concerns about proposed new controversial national security laws, saying they will not trample on rights and freedoms.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says Beijing's proposed national security laws will not trample on the city's rights and freedoms and she's called on citizens to wait to see the details of the legislation.

Ms Lam added her voice to an unprecedented barrage of statements by Beijing and local officials, and former city leaders defending the legislation and seeking to reassure residents, investors and diplomats about Hong Kong freedoms.

"There is no need for us to worry," Ms Lam told a regular weekly news conference on Tuesday.

Like others supporting the legislation, she did not explain how the freedoms that Hong Kong enjoys will be upheld.

Protesters during demonstrations against Beijing’s plans to introduce national security laws
Protesters during demonstrations in Hong Kong against China's plans to introduce national security laws

"In the last 23 years, whenever people worried about Hong Kong's freedom of speech and freedom of expression and protest, time and again, Hong Kong has proven that we uphold and preserve those values," she said.

"The best thing is to see the legislation in front of us and to understand why at this point in time Hong Kong needs this piece of legislation."

According to a draft proposal last week, the legislation aims to tackle secession, subversion and terrorist activities. It could see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in one of the world's biggest financial hubs.

Thousands poured onto the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in a mass protest against the laws. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd and arrested almost 200 people.

More protests are expected in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

The US, Australia, Britain, the European Union and others expressed concerns about the laws and Washington warned Hong Kong could lose the preferential treatment that makes it a vibrant interface between communist China and the West.

Beijing and local officials have toughened their rhetoric recently, describing some of the acts in the protests as "terrorism" and attempts of "secessionism," remarks echoed by Ms Lam on Tuesday.

The commander of China's military Hong Kong garrison said in a rare interview that the garrison firmly supported the new legislation.

Chen Daoxiang told Chinese state television the garrison had the determination and ability to safeguard national sovereignty and the city's long-term prosperity and security.

Opinion polls show only a minority of Hong Kong people support independence, which is anathema to Beijing.

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