Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Thursday was trapped inside the venue of her first public dialogue session for four hours after it ended, amid protests outside.
Lam spoke with dozens of residents during the two-hour town hall meeting which was held inside Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai. Although the session ended at around 9:30pm, protests continued outside for hours afterwards.
As crowds gradually left, Lam and four other officials waited until around 1:30am to leave via the stadium’s back door.
During the dialogue session, a man dressed in a black polo shirt and black mask gave a particularly short comment.
“We all know that you don’t call the shots, so I don’t have much to say,” he said. “You said you will listen to public opinion, but we have been speaking out for three months. If you haven’t heard anything over the past three months, how is it that you are really listening now?”
He asked Lam not to call him a friend. “I don’t have friends like you,” he said.
He was one of two people at the dialogue session who said they had no intention to commit suicide. His comment was made in reference to unverified rumours that protesters had mysteriously died after they were arrested.
Lam has responded to one of the protesters’ five demands by promising to officially withdraw the extradition bill that triggered the movement, though she said he cannot agree to the other demands. Demonstrators are also calling for a fully independent probe into alleged police misconduct, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”
One of the participants told Lam that if she wished to know what young people were thinking, she could download the LIHKG app—a Reddit-like forum popular among protesters—and read the top posts for 15 minutes every day.
“You don’t have to pay anything. There is no need for you to deploy 3,000 police officers either,” he said, referring to the heavy police presence at the session.
Another woman asked Lam to consider why she was not invited to Beijing for the October 1 celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
“It was because you made Hong Kong people very angry, and even President Xi [Jinping] is ashamed to be seen with you,” she said.
Many who spoke asked for an independent commission of inquiry into police behaviour—one of the protesters’ five core demands—but Lam did not commit to any concession during the session. But she said the controversial San Uk Ling Holding Centre—where arrested protesters are alleged to have been beaten—would not be used to hold arrestees anymore.
One participant sparked backlash after she said she believed protesters’ demands were relatively reasonable, but that she could not agree with some tactics adopted by them.
“The protests were peaceful before July 1, when people stormed the Legislative Council. Was this method a bit problematic?” she said.
A photo comparing her to a woman in a police uniform was also widely shared online after the event.
But a report carried by Headline Daily cited sources as saying that she used to be an auxiliary police officer but was no longer working as one.
The city is bracing itself for a fresh round of protests in coming days with Saturday marking five years since the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement kicked off and Tuesday being the 70th anniversary of communist China’s founding.
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