Top adviser Chan says hard lines drawn

Local | BLOOMBERG 19 Sep 2019

Hong Kong's administration does not see any benefit in conceding to more demands from protesters, says a top adviser to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, though violent demonstrations are unlikely to stop anytime soon.

Radical demonstrators will not give up their struggle even if the administration meets all of their demands, said Executive Council convener Bernard Charnwut Chan.

While moderate protesters may be swayed by moves to address social inequality, he added, hardliners are unlikely to give up yet.

He spoke after another weekend of protests descended into violence less than two weeks since Lam made her most significant concession to date by announcing the formal withdrawal of fugitive bill amendments that spawned the protest movement. While that met one of five demands it did not quell the unrest.

On other demands, Chan said amnesty for protesters charged with crimes was a "no go" as it violated the rule of law. And launching a formal inquiry would take possibly years and would not solve the immediate crisis.

Lam's administration is intent on addressing social inequality it believes is the root cause of protests, Chan said, despite many protesters insisting their real grievance is the lack of true democracy. He also hoped Lam's efforts to engage in dialogue with residents will help end demonstrations, but he added that the protest movement's leaderless nature complicated the talking process.

Lam has said she would be conferring with district councilors and also begin meetings with the public next week as part of dialogue process.

But Chan said many people did not want to be seen meeting Lam, whose popularity has plunged as the unrest worsened.

"Some people have accused her of hiding," he said. "It's not true. She's been seeing people every day since June, but funnily enough many would prefer not to be seen meeting her.

"I guess they're afraid people might [ask] 'Why you? Why are you seeing her? Are you representing us?'"

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