In comments Friday, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott accused Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam of behaving like a loyal pawn of China’s President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
Scott reportedly made his remarks in reaction to a letter from Lam, criticizing the United States’ passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the South China Morning Post reported. In her letter, Lam said she was “deeply worried” by the passage of the law.
The U.S. senator met Lam during a recent visit to Hong Kong.
“On my trip to Hong Kong, I met with Chief Executive Carrie Lam and establishment leaders, who are nothing more than puppets for Beijing and [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping],” Scott said Friday.
According to Scott, Lam’s letter said the passage of the U.S. law would pressure China to give in to demands for greater Democratic freedoms and, in turn, risks uncertainty for the city’s business and investment environment.
Lam’s letter says that uncertainty “risks not only endangering our local economy but also weakening valued U.S. economic and trade relations.”
Scott called Lam’s letter an expression of “more empty words” and said she could not even account for “basic questions about the rights of her people.”
His criticism of Lam comes on the 18th week of continued protests in Hong Kong, as pro-democracy protesters have sought the removal of a proposed bill to allow citizens to be extradited to the Chinese mainland where Communist Party-dominated courts can adjudicate criminal proceedings.
While Lam did announce the formal withdrawal of the extradition bill in September, protesters have criticized her for inadequately addressing the issue of police brutality that came about during the protests. They have also called for her resignation.
Scott also appeared to characterize her withdrawal of the extradition bill as insufficient.
“It is disappointing that Hong Kong does not have a strong leader standing for them, but the United States is committed to this fight and won’t back down,” Scott said.
Scott’s words also come amid Lam’s Friday call to exercise emergency powers banning the wearing of face masks by protesters.
Protesters have worn masks for fear of identification and reprisal by Hong Kong police authorities.
On Friday, Lam rejected the characterization of the ban as an act of “authoritarianism,” and expressed hope that the measure would actually work to disincentivize protesters from adopting more violent and vandalous tactics.
But protesters signaled defiance to the edict and vowed to continue wearing masks during protests, whether or not the ban would be enforced.
Protests have indeed escalated in recent weeks as well. Many pro-democracy demonstrators have been found using petrol bombs, corrosive chemicals and other weapons.
The city’s police have also been accused of adopting brutal tactics, such as torturing detained protesters.
The police use of live ammunition has also been observed and on Tuesday amid defiance of China’s National Day celebrating the 70th anniversary of established communist rule, one protester was shot by a police officer.