Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday slammed the US bill that was recently signed into law by President Donald Trump, saying that the legislation was unnecessary and could negatively affect the business environment in her city.
Announced the fourth round of relief measures to boost the city's battered economy, Lam, earlier today, was quoted as saying by Russia Today that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was "wholly unnecessary."
"It creates an unstable and uncertain environment," the pro-Beijing leader told reporters, adding that Hong Kong will follow China's example in retaliating to the move with "countermeasures," without specifying what that would entail.
The act, signed into law last week by the Trump administration, requires the US State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favourable US trading terms, and threatens sanctions for human rights violations.
Beijing has regularly insisted that the legislation represents unwarranted foreign meddling in its internal affairs. The Communist mainland, in its bid to retaliate, has already rescinded permission for US warships to make stops at Hong Kong's ports on Monday.
China has also announced sanctions for a number of NGOs which it says have "incited" protesters to commit crimes, including Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, and the National Democratic Institute.
The officials said that the fourth round of relief measures would soon be rolled out after the city recorded its biggest retail slump on record amid ongoing social unrest, and with the government on course for its first budget deficit in 15 years.
The fresh measures will add to the more than HK$21 billion (US$2.67 billion) in sweeteners which the government has rolled out in the past four months.
Previous measures have included fuel subsidies for commercial vehicles, cash incentives for tour operators, subsidies for poorer residents and a string of waivers on government fees for companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
For nearly six months, the city has been gripped by anti-government protests, in the form of street occupations and attacks on transport links and mainland China-linked businesses. They have frequently descended into clashes between residents and police, with protesters hurling bricks and petrol bombs while police use tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.
The disturbances, coupled with the US-China trade war, have helped push the city into recession. The economy shrank 3.2 per cent in the third quarter, from the previous one, while GDP was down 2.9 per cent in the third quarter year on year, the biggest contraction in a decade. The government forecast GDP would contract 1.3 per cent this year from last year.
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