(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam called on protesters not to disrupt her first public dialogue event, as she attempted to quiet months of protests that threaten to mar Beijing’s anniversary celebrations.
The Hong Kong chief executive told reporters Tuesday that about 20,000 people have registered for a town hall-style session that will hold about 150 participants, after Asia’s main financial hub saw its 16th straight weekend of clashes between pro-democracy protesters and riot cops. At one point over the weekend, demonstrators threw debris onto a car carrying the city’s top official for mainland affairs, cracking the windshield.
“I very much hope the first dialogue with community on Thursday could be made in a peaceful, rational and calm environment,” Lam said, referring to an event planned at an indoor stadium in the city’s Wan Chai area. “And my colleagues and I will listen to citizens’ opinions in a sincere, humble manner.”
Lam’s comments come ahead of protests planned to coincide with the Oct. 1 anniversary of 70 years of Communist rule in China next week, which will feature a military parade and a speech from President Xi Jinping. Hong Kong has been paralyzed since June by near-daily -- and sometimes violent protests -- sparked by a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
Lam scrapped the measure, but protesters have continued marching in a movement that has expanded to include demands for an inquiry into the violence as well as greater democratic accountability. Protesters have rejected her attempts at dialogue efforts, because she has ruled out meeting their other demands.
The Hong Kong leader continued to defend police actions, noting that there have been no confirmed fatalities between protesters and police. “Apart from some critical incidents, where members of the public have major concerns and some different views, the fact that over three months, we have not seen major fatalities in Hong Kong is -- by world standards, because I’ve been meeting overseas dignitaries and senior officials -- is quite remarkable,” Lam said.
Last week, Amnesty International issued a report that said Hong Kong police beat pro-democracy protesters in custody and committed acts that amounted to “torture” during the course of recent demonstrations. Police said the Amnesty report didn’t reflect the fact that officers were facing a large group of radical protesters who “broke the law recklessly,” and said it lacked details that would allow them to verify the allegations.
On Tuesday, Lam said the “the force is under extreme pressure” from the protests, but that people should come forward with complaints about police conduct, so that incidents can be investigated.
Meanwhile, opposition lawmaker Roy Kwong was punched and beaten by three men in the city’s Tin Shui Wai area Tuesday morning and was on his way to the hospital, according to Lam Cheuk-ting, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party. A Hong Kong government spokesman later “strongly condemned” the attack and said in a statement that police would follow up in order to bring the perpetrators to justice.
(Adds Hong Kong government statement in final paragraph.)
--With assistance from Natalie Lung and Karen Leigh.
To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Stephen Tan in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org
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