Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam denies Beijing won't let her resign

Politician responds to leaked audio recording and insists she can steer Hong Kong out of its three-month political crisis

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, said she was disappointed that her comments from a private meeting were recorded and leaked. EPA
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, said she was disappointed that her comments from a private meeting were recorded and leaked. EPA

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that she never asked the Chinese government to let her resign.

Mrs Lam was responding to a Reuters report about a voice recording of her saying she would step down if she could.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to Hong Kong's streets since mid-June in protests at a now-suspended extradition bill which would have sent people to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.

Mrs Lam told business leaders last week that she had caused "unforgivable havoc" by introducing the bill and that if she had a choice then she would apologise and resign, according to a leaked recording.

Speaking at a televised news conference on Tuesday, Ms Lam said that she had never considered asking to resign and that Beijing believed her government could solve the three-month crisis without mainland China's intervention.

"I have not even contemplated discussing a resignation to the central people's government. The choice of resigning, it's my own choice," Ms Lam said.

"I told myself repeatedly in the last three months that I and my team should stay on to help Hong Kong ... That's why I said that I have not given myself the choice to take an easier path and that is to leave."

Ms Lam added that she was disappointed that comments made in a private meeting, where she had been sharing the "journey of my heart", had been leaked.

The growing unrest has turned into a broader call for Chinese-ruled Hong Kong to be granted greater autonomy by Beijing, which has accused foreign powers, particularly the US and Britain, of fomenting the unrest.

In the audio recording, Ms Lam said that her ability to resolve the crisis was now "very limited", but she said on Tuesday that her government could bring an end to the unrest.

"I think I can lead my team to help Hong Kong to walk out from this dilemma. I still have the confidence to do this," she said. "Up till now, the central government still thinks [the Hong Kong] government has the ability to handle this."

On Tuesday, Hong Kong school and university students boycotted classes and hold pro-democracy rallies for the second day in a row.

This followed a weekend marred by some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated more than three months ago, with protesters burning barricades and throwing petrol bombs, and police retaliating with water cannon, tear gas and batons.

Protesters want greater democracy for the former British colony which returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees wide-ranging autonomy, including the right to protest and an independent judiciary.

Demonstrators fear those freedoms are being slowly eroded by Communist Party rulers in Beijing, a charge China denies.

Updated: September 3, 2019 02:48 PM

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