Hong Kong leader condemns U.S. law and promises economic relief

A pro-democracy supporter waves a flag during a rally by the advertising industry in Hong Kong on Monday Dec. 2 2019. Thousands of people took to Ho

A pro-democracy supporter waves a flag during a rally by the advertising industry in Hong Kong on Monday Dec. 2 2019. Thousands of people took to Ho

Hong Kong is grappling with its first recession in a decade.

The United States' Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act signed by President Donald Trump on November 27 requires the Secretary of State to annually review whether the former British colony is "sufficiently autonomous" from mainland China to justify its special economic privileges granted under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

Companies "will be anxious about the actions the U.S. government may take in the future after they review this legislation", she said.

Lam also said the act created an unstable environment for companies, and chambers of commerce have opposed the law.

Protesters in Hong Kong are pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, but the city's pro-Beijing leadership has refused any major political concessions. That comes after a ban by Beijing against USA military from visiting the city.

Derek Mitchell, the president of the National Democratic Institute, said in Hong Kong last week that accusations it was colluding with protesters were "patently false".

"Rather tha (n) target an organisation that seeks to defend the rights of the people of Hong Kong, the Chinese government should respect those rights", said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

Separately, the justice secretary, Teresa Cheng, said she would return to her office on Wednesday after being on sick leave for more than two weeks following an altercation in London during which she was injured.

Cheng, who returned to Hong Kong from Beijing on Tuesday, told reporters at the airport that she had suffered a bone fracture around her wrist and had an operation in London.

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The law also imposes sanctions on individuals deemed responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

Lam did not specify what the next round of relief measures would include. The government has already offered around HK$21-billion ($2.7-billion) in economic support, particularly to help the transport, tourism and retail industries.

Retailers have been especially hard-hit. The bilateral treaty was to guarantee that Hong Kong retain its autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party and its freedoms for 50 years.

The unrest has hammered retail sales which fell by their steepest on record in October as protests scared off tourists and hit spending.

Along with suspending visits by official USA military ships and aircraft, Hua said China would sanction organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch and others that she said had "performed badly" in the Hong Kong unrest.

While the nature of the sanctions remained unclear, the move appeared to back up Chinese threats that the United States would bear the costs of the decision.

An editorial from government mouthpiece Global Times said Beijing could take further measures if the United States "continues to escalate the provocation in Hong Kong".

Last week US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires the president to annually review the city's favourable trade status and threatens to revoke it if the semi-autonomous territory's freedoms are quashed.

Riot officers fired tear gas and pepper-spray balls in clashes with protesters Sunday night.

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