Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has pulled out of a young business leaders summit organized by Forbes Asia at the last minute, citing a “change of schedule” after online activists suggested tracking her down at the event.
Chief Executive Lam was expected to attend Forbes Asia’s Under 30 Summit, which begins today and ends on Saturday. However, Forbes Asia tweeted earlier today that Lam would no longer be appearing due to an unspecified “change of schedule.”
The Under 30 Summit in #HongKong kicks off today. We're looking forward to hearing from inspiring speakers like @tonyfernandes & @getpeid tomorrow. H.K. Chief Executive Carrie Lam had a change of schedule and won’t be joining us anymore. Follow #Under30Summit for updates. pic.twitter.com/tfAZIQhvA5
— Forbes Asia (@ForbesAsia) July 11, 2019
Public anger at Lam and her administration is at an all-time high over its handling of a weeks-long protest campaign sparked by a widely despised extradition bill. Lam attempted on Tuesday to head off further protests by reassuring the public that the “bill is dead,” but again refused to formally withdraw it, or to concede to any of the protesters’ other demands, further angering the bill’s opponents.
While the official reasons for Lam’s absence were unclear, users on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like forum LIHKG had sent out word yesterday that Lam was due to appear at the conference, with some suggesting “we should go and find our mother” there. The suggestion referred to an interview Lam gave with TVB in the early days of the protests, in which she made an analogy — widely interpreted as insultingly condescending — likening herself to a mother and the city’s protesters to children throwing a tantrum.
This is not the first time Lam has been a no-show at a big event. On June 14 — two days after police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and bean bag rounds at a crowd of tens of thousands of largely peaceful protesters — Lam dropped out of a Wall Street Journal technology conference at the last minute.
— SJ (@SijiaJ) June 14, 2019
Amid the swirling discontent, Lam has been laying low and keeping public appearances to a minimum. Yesterday, she and some members of her government visited Lamma Island to attend the opening ceremony of a new library, though Ming Pao reported that — in an unusual twist — media outlets had not been informed of the event beforehand.
Facebook user “Lamma Gung,” the owner of the hyperlocal website Lamma-zine, attended yesterday’s event, and pointed out on Facebook that he saw a noticeably large police presence on the island that day.