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Hong Kong’s leader refuses to give ground despite poll result

Carrie Lam has said, however, she will accelerate dialogues on addressing the grievances of pro-democracy protesters.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday (Vincent Yu/AP)
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday (Vincent Yu/AP)

By AP Reporters

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam refused to offer concessions to anti-government protesters despite a local election setback, saying she would instead accelerate dialogues and identify ways to address societal grievances.

Ms Lam said the central government in Beijing didn’t blame her for the election outcome. Nearly three million voters cast their ballot in a record turnout that gave the pro-democracy bloc a landslide victory, with 90 percent of seats and control of 17 out of 18 district councils.

While a relatively low-key election on face value, the poll was viewed as a barometer for public support for more than five months of pro-democracy protests.

Ms Lam said Sunday’s election may have reflected unhappiness with the government handling of the unrest but that it also showed many people wanted a stop to violence.

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Pro-democracy supporters celebrate after pro-Beijing politician Junius Ho lost his election in Hong Kong this week (Kin Cheung/AP)

In early September, when she withdrew an extradition bill that sparked the unrest, Ms Lam said she had also given a detailed response to protesters’ other demands including free elections for the city’s leader and legislature, as well as a probe into alleged police brutality.

She said the government hoped to take advantage of the current lull in violence to implement measures listed including accelerating public dialogue and setting up an independent review committee to identify deep-seated societal issues to find a way out.

“The next step to go forward is really … to engage the people. And we have started public dialogue with the community,” she said.

“But unfortunately, with the unstable environment and a chaotic situation, I could not do more on that sort of engagement. I hope that the environment will allow me to do it now.

The next step to go forward is really ... to engage the people Carrie Lam

“Let me just stress that after these five-six months, Hong Kong people have realised very clearly that Hong Kong could no longer tolerate this chaotic situation,” she said.

“Please help us to maintain the relative calm and peace that we have seen in the last week or so and provide a good basis for Hong Kong to move forward.”

Some pro-establishment figures have pointed fingers at Ms Lam for their loss, while the pro-democracy camp has asked her to step down.

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Portraits of former university council chairpersons displayed alongside the words ‘era Revolution’ sprayed by protesters at Polytechnic University in Hong Kong (AP)

Meanwhile, faculty teams who searched through Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University have found a young woman in a weak condition.

They said they believe all other anti-government protesters have left the campus following a week-long police siege.

Polytechnic University vice president Alexander Wai said he cannot rule out the possibility that some other protesters may still be hiding in the vast campus, but that “the possibility is not very high”.

The search came more than a week after protesters used the university as a base for clashes with police outside. Those holding out were trying to avoid arrest.

Mr Wai said the woman, who is over 18 and not a student at the university, has been given medical care and counsellors are trying to coax her to surrender.

PA

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