Protests fuelled by opposition to an extradition bill have expanded into calls for more democracy in Chinese territory.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday her administration would convene public dialogue sessions in the territory from next week to try and reduce the political temperature following months of sometimes violent protests.
Lam said the sessions would be as open as possible, with members of the public able to sign up to attend.
“Hong Kong society has really accumulated a lot of deep-rooted economic, social and even political issues,” Lam told reporters at a weekly briefing. “I hope these different forms of dialogue can provide a platform for us to discuss.”
She said the issues included housing and land shortages in one of the world’s most densely populated cities of 7.4 million. Young people are particularly frustrated by the high cost of finding a place of their own to live.
“But I have to stress here, dialogue platform doesn’t mean we don’t have to take resolute enforcement actions. Suppressing the violence in front of us is still the priority,” she said.
The protest movement began in June to oppose a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed individuals to be sent to China for trial but has since developed into a broader anti-government movement pushing for greater freedom and democracy in the self-governing territory.
Lam gave in to one of the protesters’ demands in announcing a full withdrawal of the extradition bill on September 4, with Beijing’s support.
But the protests have continued with violent clashes over the weekend, heightened in part by widespread public anger towards perceived police brutality and abuse of power.
More than 1,400 people have been arrested by the police since the civil unrest began.