Hong Kong’s beleaguered chief executive, Carrie Lam, has said that she would quit if she could, having caused “unforgivable havoc” by seeking to introduce a controversial extradition law. Lam’s was speaking to business leaders at a closed-door meeting last week, though leaked audio of her remarks were published by Reuters.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

“For a chief executive to have caused this huge havoc to Hong Kong is unforgivable,” she said. “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit – having made a deep apology – is to step down. So I make a plea to you for your forgiveness.”

She said the extradition bill, which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to China, was her idea: “This is not something instructed, coerced by the central government,” she said, expressing regret about her decision and for underestimating Hongkongers’ scepticism over mainland encroachment.

Since June, large-scale peaceful protests against the ill-fated bill have morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing’s interference, democracy, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances.

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A protest in August. File photo: May James/HKFP.

Lam said that she did not pity herself, but lamented that she was unable to go out in public or visit the hair salon, for fear of encountering protesters.

She went on to admit that she had little room to respond to the protest movement’s demands: “[T]he political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of Hong Kong, that political room for manoeuvring is very, very, very limited.”

In the 24-minute recording, Lam said that arrests would continue but claimed it was unlikely that China’s People’s Liberation Army would intervene.

Demonstrators are continuing to demand a complete withdrawal of the bill, a fully independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

Lam’s office refused to comment on the private conversation when contacted by Reuters. She will meet the press on Tuesday morning for a regular briefing, as a student strike enters a second day.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.