HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday the immediate creation of a platform for dialogue involving people from all spheres of society amid protests in the city since the beginning of June.
Speaking at a press conference, Lam said that both she and the members of her government are “committed to listen to what the people have to tell us” and that they will do so “in a very sincere and humble manner.”
Lam said that the initiative would provide authorities with a better platform to address some of the concerns and differences present in Hong Kong society.
Protesters have called for the chief executive’s resignation for weeks. Her popularity, according to a recent opinion poll, is at the lowest point of any leader of the special autonomous region since the former colony was returned from the United Kingdom to China in 1997.
Lam added that she hoped Hong Kong had “unique advantages in attracting overseas companies.”
“One of the most important strengths is the rule of law,” she said.
The mass protests and strikes that have been sweeping over the city for the past few months first sparked in March, prompted by a controversial extradition bill that would facilitate the deportation of suspects to other jurisdictions such as mainland China, which many activists view as a threat to Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
Though the protesters initially held sporadic and peaceful marches across the city’s downtown, the demonstrations – generally held on weekend days – grew exponentially in June.
There have been occasional bursts of violence as the more militant protesters clashed with police clad in riot gear in the weekend protests.
Lam said again on Tuesday that the bill was dead, although protesters appear unconvinced by this promise, as they call for its definitive withdrawal from any public consideration.
“I can give you this very clear commitment at the political level that the bill is dead,” Lam said. “There is no plan to revive the bill, especially in light of the public concerns.”
Meanwhile, Beijing claims that the protests are being fanned by foreign actors wishing to undermine the Asian giant, with the accusations especially targeting the United States.
Under the formula “one country, two systems,” the Chinese government agreed to respect certain liberties and the special autonomy of Hong Kong until 2047, 50 years after the British rescinded their colonial relationship with the prosperous region.