In her first comments on the legislation, which became law last week, Lam said it was “wholly unnecessary,” and could negatively affect business confidence in the city.
“It creates an unstable and uncertain environment,” Lam said in a press conference on Monday, adding that Hong Kong will follow Beijing’s example in retaliating to the move with “countermeasures,” though she did not specify what that would entail.
The ‘Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy’ act sped through both chambers of the US legislature virtually unchallenged last month before being signed into law. The bill requires the State Department to review and grade Hong Kong’s level of “autonomy” annually, threatening sanctions for Mainland China if US officials decide they don’t like what they see.
Beijing has insisted the bill represents unwarranted foreign meddling in its internal affairs and has vowed to retaliate, already rescinding permission for US warships to make stops at Hong Kong’s ports on Monday. China 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.
Hong Kong has been gripped by months of increasingly violent protests, first sparked over a controversial extradition bill which opponents said would give too much power to Mainland China. While the bill has since been withdrawn, the protests and police response have only grown in intensity, with demonstrators holding out for a number of demands, including probes into police misconduct and election reforms.
Additional protests in districts across the city are planned for Tuesday, which are expected to carry on into the evening.