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HONG KONG - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she supports the implementation of a mainland Chinese law in the former British colony to respond to foreign sanctions, the strongest signal yet that the city is set to adopt the legislation.
Lam, speaking at her weekly news conference, said she would prefer the law be introduced through Hong Kong legislation rather than Beijing legislation, by adding it to an annex of Hong Kong's mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.
"(Hong Kong) will do its utmost to fulfil its constitutional responsibility, including safeguarding the country's autonomy, safety and interest for its development," Lam said.
"We support this nationwide law - the anti-sanctions law - to be listed in Annex 3," she said, referring to an annex of the Basic law.
Local enactment would better clarify the legal framework around implementation, she said, adding that Beijing had already consulted her regarding listing the law in Annex 3.
Beijing adopted a law in June under which individuals or entities involved in making or implementing discriminatory measures against Chinese citizens or entities could be put on a Chinese government anti-sanctions list.
Under China's law, such individuals could then be denied entry into China or be expelled. Their assets in China may be seized or frozen. They could also be restricted from doing business with entities or people in China.
The mainland law comes as the United States and European Union step up pressure on China over trade, technology, Hong Kong and the far western region of Xinjiang.
Critics have warned that Hong Kong's adoption of the law could undermine its reputation as a global financial hub.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 with a guarantee of a high degree of autonomy and freedoms.
On Sunday, Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said the "most natural and appropriate way" to introduce the anti-sanctions law into Hong Kong would be to add it to an annex of the Basic Law.
But that would first have to be approved by the highest organ of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, she said. Media have reported that a decision would likely be made during a meeting in Beijing on Aug. 17-20.
The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials over Beijing's crackdown on the city's freedoms under a sweeping national security legislation that the central government enacted on the financial hub a year ago. REUTERS