Senior Hong Kong government officials lashed out on Saturday at moves by U.S. President Donald Trump to strip the city of its special status in a bid to punish China for imposing national security laws on the global financial hub.
Speaking hours after Trump said the city no longer warranted economic privileges and some officials could face sanctions, security minister John Lee told reporters that Hong Kong's government could not be threatened and would push ahead with the new laws.
"I don't think they will succeed in using any means to threaten the (Hong Kong) government, because we believe what we are doing is right," Lee said.
Justice minister Teresa Cheng said the basis for Trump's actions was "completely false and wrong", saying the need for national security laws were legal and necessary.
In some of his toughest rhetoric yet, Trump said Beijing had broken its word over Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy from Beijing, by proposing the national security legislation and that the territory no longer warranted U.S. economic privileges.
"We will take action to revoke Hong Kong's preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China," Trump said, adding that Washington would also impose sanctions on individuals seen as responsible for "smothering - absolutely smothering - Hong Kong's freedom."
Trump told reporters at the White House that China's move on Hong Kong was a tragedy for the world, but he gave no timetable for the moves, leaving Hong Kong residents, businesses and officials to ponder just how far his administration will go.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said Saturday marked "a sad day" for China's freest city.
"This is an emotional moment for Americans in Hong Kong and it will take companies and families a while to digest the ramifications," AmCham President Tara Joseph said in a statement.
"Many of us ... have deep ties to this city and with Hong Kong people. We love Hong Kong and it's a sad day," she said, adding the chamber would continue to work with its members to maintain Hong Kong's status as a vital business centre.