Tuesday 17 September 2019

Hong Kong leader 'will not give in to protests'

Carrie Lam said it is unacceptable that the state gives in to demands. AP Photo/Vincent Yu
Carrie Lam said it is unacceptable that the state gives in to demands. AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Ken Moritsugu

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said yesterday she had held talks about the protests gripping the city - but showed no signs of breaking the stalemate over the protesters' pro-democracy demands.

Ms Lam said she explained the government's position to those who attended the Monday meeting, which was unannounced and held behind closed doors.

It was not clear who attended the meeting with Ms Lam and the education and home affairs ministers. The 'South China Morning Post', citing an unidentified source, said that about 20 people took part and that they were mostly in their 20s and 30s.

The semi-autonomous Chinese territory has seen more than two months of youth-led protests that have often ended in clashes with police.

More than 80 people were arrested last weekend after protesters built barriers across roads and threw bricks and gasoline bombs to try to block the police, who used tear gas to drive them away.

Ms Lam, whose resignation the protesters have demanded, announced last week that she is creating a platform for dialogue. But opposition lawmakers said it was merely a delaying tactic.

The city leader said her government had accepted the protest movement's main demand by suspending an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial. Protesters are demanding its formal withdrawal.

The extradition proposal fuelled concern that China is chipping away at the separate legal system and rights Hong Kong has under a "one country, two systems" framework.

Huge marches against the legislation have drawn more than a million people, according to organiser estimates.

However, Ms Lam said it would be unacceptable for the government to accede to the protesters' demands.

"If violence continues, the only thing that we should do is to stamp out that violence through law enforcement actions," she said.

She dismissed any suggestion of resignation, saying a responsible chief executive should "hold the fort and do her utmost to restore law and order in Hong Kong".

China has said it strongly deplores a statement by the leaders of the G-7 nations, who affirmed the importance of Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status.

The former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

"We expressed, collectively, deep concern about what is happening in Hong Kong," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after the G-7 meeting in France.

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that no foreign government has the right to intervene in Hong Kong, which he called an internal Chinese issue.

Irish Independent

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