Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday she has never tendered her resignation to China over the anti-government protests that have roiled the city for three months. Lam was asked repeatedly at a news briefing about a Reuters report on Monday citing leaked audio of her telling business leaders recently that she would quit if she had a choice.
“I have never tendered a resignation to the central people’s government. I have not even contemplated to discuss a resignation…the choice of not resigning was my own choice,” Lam told the news conference, when asked why Beijing refused to let her quit.
Carrie Lam says, “I know it is not going to be an easy path, and that’s why I have said that I have not given myself the choice to take an easier path and that is to leave.”
Lam also slammed the recording and leaking of her comments from the private meeting as “unacceptable.”
Lam was elected as Hong Kong’s chief executive by a pro-Beijing committee of Hong Kong elites, and the mainland government has spoken in support of her government and the city’s police force throughout the sometimes-violent protests.
The demonstrators who have filled parks and streets regularly since early June want democratic reforms to Hong Kong’s government and an independent inquiry into police actions against protesters.
Lam has come under withering criticism for pushing an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China to stand trials. She has suspended the bill, but the protesters want it entirely withdrawn.
Clashes between police and protesters have become increasingly violent, with demonstrators throwing gasoline bombs and rods at officers in fresh weekend protests. Authorities in turn have employed water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons. More than 1,100 people have been detained.
Lam said Tuesday that the “one China, two systems” formula when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997 would be upheld. The formula promised greater civil rights in Hong Kong than those afforded to mainland Chinese, but Hong Kong residents have expressed worries those promises are eroding.
She also said the Chinese government also believes that the Hong Kong government can overcome the conflict on its own, without any interference.
Some have expressed fear the Chinese military would crack down on the protests.
Lam said she doesn’t know how long it will take to end the civil disobedience but that she remains confident of restoring law and order.
The mostly young protesters say that a degree of violence is necessary to get the government’s attention after peaceful rallies were futile. Lam’s administration want the violence to first end before any fruitful dialogue can begin.
Tens of thousands of students, clad in gas masks and hard helmets along with their formal school uniforms, boycotted the first day of classes Monday as part of a citywide strike. Workers also participated in a rally at a public park adjacent to the government headquarters.
The prolonged protests have hurt Hong Kong’s economy amid a slowdown in the Chinese economy and its trade war with the United States.