Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that she would work closely with Beijing’s top official in the territory to get the city back on “the right path” after more than six months of pro-democracy protests.
The appointment of a new head of the Chinese government’s most important office in Hong Kong, Luo Huining, was unexpectedly announced at the weekend in a sign of Beijing’s frustration with the latter’s handling of the crisis.
The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region reports to China’s State Council or cabinet, and is the main platform for Beijing to project its influence in the city.
“I would work closely with director Luo in the coming future, committing to ‘one country, two systems’, and the Basic Law, for Hong Kong to … return to the right path,” Lam said in her first news conference of the year, referring to the city’s mini-constitution and system of governance.
Luo on Monday, in his first remarks since taking office, used the same language, saying he hoped the city would return to the right path.
Lam did not mention the protests in her opening remarks, which focused on health risks related to an outbreak of a respiratory virus in the city of Wuhan on the mainland.
Authorities have identified 21 cases in Hong Kong, of which seven people have been released from hospital.
Clashes between police and protesters intensified over the year-end holiday following an early-December lull in violence after an overwhelming win of the pro-democracy camp in city district council elections yielded no government concessions.
The protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which began over a now-dropped extradition bill, have evolved into a broader campaign for democracy with demands for universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into complaints of police brutality.
The police maintain they have acted with restraint.
Many people in Hong Kong are angered by what they see as Beijing’s ever-tightening grip on the city which was promised a high degree of autonomy under a “one country, two systems” framework when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Beijing denies interference and blames the West for heightening the unrest.
The protest movement is supported by 59 percent of city residents polled in a survey conducted for Reuters by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, while 57 percent of them wanted Lam to resign.