Hong Kong’s Lam Sees No Need for Chinese Troops to Quell Unrest
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s leader said her government can handle unrest without assistance from Chinese forces, and still wants to hold talks with protesters despite a flare up in violence.
“To this day, the SAR government is still confident it’s able to solve the disturbance that’s gone on for two months,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a regular briefing Tuesday before a weekly meeting of her top advisers. Lam was responding to a question about whether declaring a state of emergency was more effective than calling in the Hong Kong garrison of China’s People’s Liberation Army, amid concerns Beijing will seek to intervene more directly in quelling the city’s unrest.
On Sunday, Beijing issued its most direct warning yet, saying in a Xinhua News Agency commentary that the central government had the legal authority and responsibility to intervene militarily to halt what it said had become a “color revolution,” even though analysts said such a move remained a last resort.
Tensions flared as the former British colony was rocked by a 12th straight weekend of pro-democracy protests, beginning with the formation of a peaceful human chain across the city and ending two days later with police firing a weapon and using water cannons. Clashes resulted in 86 arrests and left 21 officers injured. There are calls for another mass protest march this weekend.
“Some thought there’d be no more basis for dialogue after this weekend’s escalation of protests, but my colleagues and I are still doing our best to construct a platform for dialogue,” Lam said.
Public confidence in Lam has sunk to its lowest since she took office, according to the latest survey released Tuesday by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Program. Only 17% of 1,023 people interviewed expressed confidence in Lam, down from 20% in a similar survey earlier this month. Satisfaction and trust in Hong Kong’s government fell to its lowest since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the poll found.
Lam convened 19 senior city leaders and community figures Saturday to discuss how to broker a dialogue with protesters. More than half of the participants urged her to meet at least some of the protests’ demands, including launching an inquiry into the unrest and formally withdrawing a now-suspended extradition bill that sparked the demonstrations, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported, citing three people with knowledge of the meeting.
Lam and her Chinese overseers have refused to make any concessions until the turmoil subsides. She said Tuesday that it would be inappropriate to accept protesters’ demands in the face of violence, but reiterated that work on the extradition bill has stopped. She said an independent inquiry was “not suitable” since the city already has an Independent Police Complaints Council, rejecting a move favored by 77% of the population, according to a previous HKPOP poll.
Lam also said she wouldn’t resign her post, another key protester demand.
“A responsible Chief Executive at this point in time should continue to hold the fort and do her utmost to restore in law and order in Hong Kong,” she said. “I wouldn’t say my government has lost control.”
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