Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam held strong in her refusal to offer concessions to protesters on Tuesday, following local elections that saw a landslide victory for her pro-democracy rivals.
Speaking in a weekly press briefing two days after the elections, Lam said the result of the vote, which handed 90% of district council seats to democratic candidates, reflected concern over “deficiencies in the government, including unhappiness with the time taken to deal with the current unstable environment and of course to end violence.”
Lam said the government could “no longer tolerate violence on the street,” indicating she would not concede to protesters’ demands.
A record-breaking 2.7 million people cast their vote in a district council elections that were widely seen as a referendum on anti-government protests that have rocked the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for months. The 18 district councils — which will see pro-democracy groups take control of 17 — are the only bodies in Hong Kong elected by popular vote.
The resounding success for the pro-democracy faction adds fuel to the fire of those calling for Lam to step down. Lam has repeatedly insisted that a silent majority of residents supports her government.
In a statement, the leader said that while the high voter turnout demonstrated dissatisfaction with the government, it also showed that citizens wanted an end to the violence.
Instead of addressing protester demands, which include direct popular elections and a probe into police brutality, Lam said she would “improve governance” and address citizens’ concerns by fostering a public dialogue.
“The next step to go forward is really, as you have put it, to engage the people. And we have started public dialogue with the community,” she said. “But unfortunately, with the unstable environment and a chaotic situation, I could not do more on that sort of engagement. I hope that the environment will allow me to do it now.”
A week of quiet
Hong Kong has been peaceful for nearly a week, one of the longest quiet stretches since anti-government protests began nearly six months ago. Lam attempted to hold a community meeting in September, but it was interrupted by protesters.
Monday’s election was the first since protests began. The clear support for the movement reflected in the vote is a huge blow to Lam and to the government in Beijing, which has said it does not blame her for the loss.
China summons US ambassador
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned US Ambassador Terry Branstad on Tuesday and demanded the US withdraw the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — a bill seen as a nod to pro-democracy protesters.
The legislation would enable the US government to conduct an annual review of its special trade agreement with Hong Kong and the status of human rights in the territory.
Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, said China strongly condemns the bill, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
The proposed legislation, which passed both houses of Congress in November, requires President Donald Trump’s signature before it can be enacted into law. Approval of the bill could negatively impact trade negotiations between China and the US.
China’s Foreign Ministry in a statement said the legislation “brazenly interferes in China’s internal affairs” and “indulges and supports the violent criminal behavior by ‘anti-China disrupting Hong Kong’ forces.”
The ministry urged the US to “immediately correct its mistakes, prevent the above-mentioned Hong Kong-related bill from becoming law, and stop any words and deeds that interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.”
Trump has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill. Last week he said that while he stood with Hong Kong, he also stood with his “friend,” Chinese President Xi Jinping.
kp, mvb/stb (AP, AFP, Reuters)
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