Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it was “natural” for her to apologise to pro-Beijing camp election candidates after they lost in the District Council race last month.

The camp suffered a huge defeat at the polls, retaining only around 60 seats out of 452. The election came after five months of mass protests in Hong Kong demanding democracy and an investigation into police behaviour.

A column in the pro-Beijing Sing Tao Daily on Tuesday claimed that Lam met with more than ten defeated district councillors of the Federation of Trade Unions. Lam apologised to them and promised that they will be appointed to government committees, the column claimed.

Carrie Lam. Photo:

Lam confirmed a recent meeting with a party but said the discussions would not be made public. She said many voters failed to examine the district work of candidates and only voted to express their dissatisfaction with the government.

“The loss of the pro-establishment camp in the District Council election was undeniably linked to the government,” she said. “I think it is natural for me to apologise to pro-establishment camp District Council election candidates.”

She said the government would not treat hard-working politicians as strangers in light of them losing their seats.

When challenged by HKFP as to whether she would commit to ensuring new pro-democracy lawmakers are treated with the same access and responsiveness by the government as their predecessors, Lam promised they would: “There is no question of the government’s commitment to continue to respect the roles and functions of the District Councils and to continue to make available the funds for the District Councils to approve and disburse according to their remit of these resources,” she said.

“[W]e would also expect the new District Council members to respect the conventions and the rules that have been established over the years in full consultation with the district. So there is no worry that we will not accord the same treatment and respect to the new District Councils after January 1 next year.”

No response to demands

The Civil Human Rights Front said 800,000 people marched on Sunday. When asked if the government will respond to the protesters’ five demands, Lam said the government had already withdrawn the controversial extradition bill.

“As for other demands, we really have to stick by certain important principles. If a particular demand requires us to deviate from the law, not to uphold the rule of law in Hong Kong, or to do things actually beyond the powers of the chief executive, I could not agree to accept those demands simply for the purpose of meeting people’s aspirations,” she said.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

Lam also noted that Tuesday is the United Nations’ Human Rights Day: “The SAR government will, as always, fully defend the human rights and freedom of Hong Kong residents.”

She said the government has reiterated Hong Kong’s international reputation on human rights protections and the rule of law: “We don’t want some politicians to continue going overseas to make false accusations, or smear Hong Kong, to urge foreign governments or legislatures to take action against Hong Kong or even issue sanctions,” she said.

US President Donald Trump recently signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act supporting the city’s pro-democracy protesters last month.

Photo: Benjamin Yuen/USP.

Lam also condemned cases of arson of the Court of Final Appeal and the High Court on Sunday, the blocking of roads and damage to shops during the mass march. She added that it was worrying that there were remarks online harassing certain judges.

Short Q&A under review

Lam has been regularly visiting the Legislative Council each month to conduct a 30-minute Q&A with lawmakers. But, on Tuesday, she said the arrangement will have to be reviewed.

“Considering the stance of some lawmakers towards me, is it a meaningful exchange? Though I did not say I will entirely cancel it,” she said.

In October, Lam had to give her policy address via video, and she could only answer a few questions from lawmakers the following day owing to protests in the chamber.

Lam will fly to Beijing on Saturday for a regular annual duty visit.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.