Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has offered to resign multiple times in recent weeks over the city’s ongoing political crisis, but has been told by Beijing to remain in office to “to clean up the mess she created,” the Financial Times reported yesterday.
Hong Kong in recent weeks has seen some of its largest protests ever, first sparked by a deeply unpopular extradition bill introduced by Lam’s government, and exacerbated by anger over the police’s heavy-handed response and the government’s perceived intransigence in the face of such unprecedented public opposition.
The handling of the bill fiasco, in Lam’s own words, has been a “total failure,” prompting Lam to offer her resignation on several occasions, the FT reported, citing two anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
But Beijing appears unwilling to let her off the hook so easily, insisting that Lam “has to stay to clean up the mess she created,” one of the sources said.
“No one else can clean up the mess and no one else wants the job.”
Lam’s resignation has been among the demands of the protesters thronging Hong Kong’s streets ever since police unleashed volleys of tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, and pepper spray on tens of thousands of largely peaceful demonstrators on June 12.
The heavy-handed response and widespread fears of Beijing’s creeping influence have turned opposition against the extradition bill — which would have allowed renditions to the mainland — into a full-blown political crisis, with protesters now demanding greater self-determination and universal suffrage in addition to the full withdrawal of the legislation.
Lam has repeatedly attempted to quell public anger, first announcing a “pause” in the legislature’s work on the bill, and later reiterating that the “bill is dead,” but neither concession has been able to surmount the public’s soaring distrust of the government. Lam has also refused to engage with protesters’ other demands, including an independent investigation into police’s use of force, and amnesty for citizens arrested over the recent protests.
As such, protests have continued unabated, with demonstrations in the outlying areas of Sheung Shui and Sha Tin this weekend attracting thousands, and ending with still more clashes between police and hardcore protesters.
Lam’s office, meanwhile, denied to the FT that she had offered her resignation, saying she had “made it clear in public that she remains committed to serving the people of Hong Kong.”
The office of the central government in Beijing responsible for Hong Kong affairs did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
Last week, however, Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong, liaison office chief Wang Zhimin, said the central government was still firmly behind Lam.
“The Chinese government sternly supports Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the administration’s continued effective ruling of Hong Kong in accordance with law,” Wang said on Thursday, according to the news agency Kyodo.
He added that Beijing also “supports the police in enforcing the law, maintaining social order, and protecting safety of the people.”
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