Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam Makes Personal Apology, But Won't Resign

Shawna Kwan and Annie Lee
Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam Makes Personal Apology, But Won't Resign

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam sought to defuse protests that have rocked the city without stepping down or officially withdrawing a bill that would allow extraditions to China for the first time.

“I personally have to shoulder much of the responsibilities,” Lam told reporters Tuesday, in her first public address since suspending the proposal on Saturday. “I offer my most sincere apologies to all people in Hong Kong.”

Protesters have vowed to keep hitting the streets until she resigns and also withdraws the bill completely. Lam said she wouldn’t proceed with the bill unless all concerns could be addressed, and noted it’s “unlikely” that would happen during the current legislative session ending next year.

“I want another chance to work out the many initiatives that will help Hong Kong’s economy and to improve the lives of people,” she said, signaling she plans to finish out the final three years in her term. “I, myself, and my political team will work very hard to achieve these objectives and to meet the expectation of Hong Kong people.”

The Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the protests, said its future actions would be discussed with opposition lawmakers. “CHRF does not accept at all Carrie Lam’s so-called apology,” Bonnie Leung, the group’s vice convener, said after Lam spoke. “We need to continue the anti-extradition protests.”

Under Pressure

Lam has been under pressure after a historic protest on Sunday that protesters said drew around 2 million people. Still, China -- her most important backer -- said on Monday it continues to “firmly support” Lam and her government.

The government announced earlier in the day that roads near the Central Government Offices, which is next to Lam’s office, had “generally become accessible” and urged staff to return to work. The Executive Council that Lam oversees didn’t meet on Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters wearing black flooded downtown Hong Kong on Sunday, prompting her to issue a statement apologizing for causing “substantial controversies and disputes in society.” Besides stepping down and withdrawing the bill, organizers want her to release all arrested demonstrators, stop calling the protests a “riot” and investigate police for excessive violence.

The dispute has attracted attention around the globe to the embarrassment of China: Beijing has blamed foreigners for provoking the protests, and urged other nations to stop getting involved in what it regards as a domestic issue.

‘Riot’

Hong Kong’s police on Monday evening dialed back their categorization of June 12’s clashes with protesters near the city’s legislative building as a “riot,” which has certain legal ramifications. Dropping the description was among the major demands of Sunday’s demonstration.

Only people who threw bricks and wielded metal poles against police officers might have committed riot offenses, police commissioner Stephen Lo told reporters.

“Others who have participated in the same public order event but have not engaged in any violent act need not to worry about committing rioting offences,” Lo said. He added that only five people had been arrested on riot-related offenses and that most protesters were “peaceful.”

Lam on Tuesday said she agreed with the clarification.

(Adds protest organizer comment in fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Shawna Kwan in Hong Kong at wkwan35@bloomberg.net;Annie Lee in Hong Kong at olee42@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, Karen Leigh

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