ANOTHER CHANCE? Carrie Lam said she wanted to try to rebuild confidence in her government, but several opposition figures said her apology was unacceptable
/ Staff writer, with Bloomberg and AP
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam （林鄭月娥） yesterday sought to defuse protests that have rocked the territory without stepping down or officially withdrawing a bill that would allow extraditions to China for the first time.
“I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibilities,” Lam told a news conference in her first public address since suspending the proposal on Saturday last week. “I offer my most sincere apologies to all people in Hong Kong.”
Protesters have vowed to keep hitting the streets until she resigns or withdraws the bill completely.
Lam said she would not proceed with the bill unless all concerns could be addressed, adding that it was “unlikely” to happen during the current legislative session ending next year.
“In recognition of the anxiety and fears caused by the bill in the last few months, if we don’t have confidence from the people we will not proceed with the legislative exercise again,” Lam said.
“I want another chance to work out the many initiatives that will help Hong Kong’s economy and to improve the lives of people,” she said.
“Work in the next three years will be difficult, but we will work to rebuild confidence in the ... government. We have a lot to do,” she said, signaling that she plans to serve out her term.
“I, myself, and my political team will work very hard to achieve these objectives and to meet the expectation of Hong Kong people,” she added.
The Civil Human Rights Front （CHRF）, which helped organize the protests, said its future actions would be discussed with opposition lawmakers.
“CHRF does not accept at all Carrie Lam’s so-called apology,” vice convener Bonnie Leung （梁穎敏） said. “We need to continue the anti-extradition protests.”
Opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo （毛孟靜） said Lam’s comments were “completely unacceptable”
“She refused to address the demands of the entire Hong Kong community,” Mo said. “We will fight on as usual within and without the legislature for Hong Kong’s true democracy campaign.”
Mo’s remarks were echoed by prominent activist Joshua Wong （黃之鋒） at a news conference outside the Legislative Council.
“Not only is this apology not sincere, it is fake. We need to point out that Carrie Lam has created a governing crisis,” he said.
Lam has been under pressure after a historic protest on Sunday that organizers said drew about 2 million people.
The government announced earlier yesterday that roads near the Central Government Offices, which is next to Lam’s office, had “generally become accessible” and urged staff to return to work.
Besides stepping down and withdrawing the bill, organizers want her to release all arrested demonstrators, stop calling the protests a “riot” and investigate police for excessive violence.
Hong Kong’s police on Monday evening dialed back their categorization of clashes on Wednesday last week with protesters near the Legislative Council building as a “riot,” which has certain legal ramifications.
Only people who threw bricks and wielded metal poles against police officers might have committed riot offenses, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo （盧偉聰） told reporters.
“Others who have participated in the same public order event, but have not engaged in any violent act need not to worry about committing rioting offenses,” Lo said.
He added that only five people among the 30 arrested were facing riot-related charges and that most protesters were “peaceful.”
Lam said she agreed with Lo’s clarification, adding that any complaints over police behavior should be referred to the agency in charge of handling such problems.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam pauses as she speaks to a news conference at the government’s headquarters yesterday. Photo: AFP
From left, pro-democracy activists Nathan Law, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow hold a news conference outside the Legislative Council building yesterday to call on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to step down. Photo: EPA-EFE