Lam prepared to face protesters as lots of talking to start

Top News | Cindy Wan 18 Sep 2019

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says the first of a new series of dialogue sessions between her and top officials and the people will be held next week.

But names will have to be drawn if more than 200 people sign up to take part.

Speaking before an Executive Council meeting, Lam said the first session will be able to accommodate up to 200 people. There will be no specific topic and participants can express views freely.

"The problems go well beyond a bill," she added in reference to the now-scrapped fugitive bill that triggered the current upheavals. "So it is important for the government to listen and engage the community to have a better understanding of those problems."

Arrangements for the session - specifically where it will be held - remain under wraps for now.

But Lam said she is prepared for protests and disruptions at the dialogue sessions.

Declaring that she needs "to fulfill my duties in many aspects," Lam said that if protests break out when "walking into communities for direct conversation, my colleagues and I are mentally prepared."

Apart from having open admissions, government officials will invite people from different age groups, social classes and backgrounds to meet Lam and her colleagues to ensure a range of issues go into the sessions.

But planning for the dialogues continues and so details must be announced later, Lam said.

There will also be more discussion sessions with representatives of different sectors of society, with about 20 participants in each.

Lam said her administration has been trying out this form of discussion since June and the interaction was good.

Being considered as well are sessions between officials and organizations, community groups, schools and charities, which would be by invitation.

"I must also emphasize that having a dialogue platform does not mean there is no need for strict law enforcement," Lam added. "The prime goal for us is still to stop violence."

Lam said civil servants who violated laws in recent protests have been arrested.

"We feel regretful for such a situation," she said, though "it's not convenient for us to disclose the actions taken on specific civil servants."

On why authorities did not condemn violence by pro-Beijing or pro-police groups, Lam said: "I have to make it absolutely clear that the government condemns all forms of violence."

Lam also said her administration has approached PR firms, but the advice to officials is that rebuilding Hong Kong's reputation should not be attempted while the unrest continues.

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