ong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam was recorded sounding apologetic, defeated, and powerless during a private meeting last week in which she admitted that she would resign from her position if only Beijing would let her.
The recording was given to the news agency Reuters who also published excerpts online, providing a revealing glimpse into Lam’s state of mind and how authorities plan on dealing with the ongoing anti-government, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong which have now moved into their 13th week.
Carrie Lam on her job performance:
For a chief executive to have caused this huge havoc to Hong Kong is unforgivable. It’s just unforgivable. If I have a choice, the first thing (I would do) is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down. So I make a plea to you for forgiveness.
Lam on Beijing’s lack of a deadline for putting an end to the protests:
I can assure you that Beijing does not have a deadline. They know this will ripple on. So we have made special arrangements and there will be first of October National Day celebrations but still having a lot of disruptions, so we are going for a modest, but solemn type of celebrations on the first of October which means that they (Beijing) and ourselves have no expectations that we could clear up this thing before the first of October.
Lam on the possibility of PLA intervention:
Another thing I want to assure you, that is my own feeling the pulse and through discussions, CPG (Central People’s Government) has absolutely no plan to send in the PLA.
Lam on Beijing’s willingness to play the long game:
They care about the country’s international profile. It has taken China a long time to build up to that sort of international profile and to have some say, not only being a big economy but a responsible big economy, so to forsake all those positive developments is clearly not on their agenda. But they’re willing to play long, they are willing to play long, so you have no short term solution, Hong Kong suffers, you lose tourism, economy, you lose your IPOs and so, but you can’t do much about it but after everything has been settled the country will be there to help with maybe positive measures especially in the Greater Bay Area.
Lam on her own lack of power:
But of course I’m sure that in your hearts you will feel, and I’m sure a large number of people feel that I do have a solution, that is a political one. But I have to tell you that this is where the crux of the matter lies. Once an issue has been elevated to a national level, to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world. The room, the political room for the chief executive who, unfortunately, has to serve two masters by constitution, that is the central people’s government and the people of HK, that political room for maneuvering is very, very, very limited.
Lam on how it feels to be her:
Nowadays it’s extremely difficult for me to go out. (pauses) I have not been on the streets, not in shopping malls, can’t go to a hair salon, can’t do anything because my whereabouts will be spread around the social media, on telegram and LIHKG, and you could expect a big crowd of black T-shirts and black masked young people waiting for me.
At a closed-door meeting, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam expresses deep regrets about her push to pass the extradition bill, according to an audio recording reviewed by @Reuters. Read the @specialreports: https://t.co/I5T1VoGHxh by @GregTorode @jamespomfret @a_roantree pic.twitter.com/vVCZQkUBhV
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 2, 2019
The demonstrations that have rocked Hong Kong this summer were sparked by a controversial bill proposed by Lam’s administration which would have allowed criminal suspects in the city to be taken to mainland China for trial.
Lam suspended the bill and declared it “dead” but has refused to formally withdraw it. Meanwhile, her government has refused to accede to any other of the protesters’ demands.
Her comments in the private meeting fall in line with previous reporting. Back in July, the Financial Times spoke to sources who said that Lam wanted to quit but Beijing wouldn’t let her.
Last week, another article from Reuters revealed that Lam had proposed withdrawing the bill in order to try to defuse the conflict, but that Beijing had rejected her proposal. The report was deemed false by Chinese state media with the Global Times tabloid even calling it a “stain on global journalism.”