Friday 6 December 2019

Lam calls for calm to 'move Hong Kong forward' after heavy poll loss

Protest: Riot police arrive to disperse protesters during a lunch break rally in the Kowloon Bay area yesterday.
Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty
Protest: Riot police arrive to disperse protesters during a lunch break rally in the Kowloon Bay area yesterday. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty

Sharon Tam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam renewed her appeals for peace in the Chinese-ruled city yesterday but failed to offer any concessions to anti-government protesters despite a resounding victory for pro-democracy parties in local elections.

Appearing tired and drawn, Ms Lam spoke a day after results showed democratic candidates secured almost 90pc of 452 district council seats in Sunday's elections, which were widely seen as a barometer of the opposition to the Beijing-backed politician following months of unrest.

China, which has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest, has not directly commented on the results, and news outlets in its tightly controlled media largely avoided detailed reporting of how Hong Kongers voted.

Yesterday, top diplomat Yang Jiechi condemned the passing of US legislation supporting protesters, saying China had "expressed our severe position to the American side", according to state news agency Xinhua.

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Ms Lam acknowledged that voters in the city wanted to express their views on many issues, including "deficiencies in governance".

She thanked people for voting peacefully and hoped the calm weekend was a signal that residents want an end to unrest that has convulsed the city for six months.

"Everybody wants to go back to their normal life and this requires the concerted efforts of every one of us," Ms Lam said during her weekly address at the government's headquarters.

"Resorting to violence will not give us that way forward. So please, please help us to maintain the relative calm and peace... and provide a good basis for Hong Kong to move forward."

The international financial centre has been rocked by six months of often violent anti-government unrest that has plunged it into its biggest political crisis in decades and poses the greatest popular challenge yet faced by China's President Xi Jinping.

China has set up a crisis command centre on the mainland side of the border, people familiar with the matter said.

While calm has now descended across most of the city, a handful of protesters remain holed up in Polytechnic University, surrounded by police following clashes at the campus on Kowloon peninsula in the run-up to elections.

Some analysts say Ms Lam, who is facing calls to step down, is out of touch with the population and will not say anything concrete unless Beijing gives her the green light.

Ma Ngok, political scientist at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: "It is up to them (Beijing) to respond.

"If they don't respond with any kind of concessions, I think the protests will go on for some time."

Irish Independent

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