Humiliated at polls, Hong Kong’s Lam acknowledges discontent with Government

Wednesday, 27 November 2019 10:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

HONG KONG (Reuters): Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam acknowledged yesterday that the record turnout in local elections won by pro-democracy candidates highlighted dissatisfaction with her administration, while appealing for an end to violent protests.

Appearing tired and drawn, Lam spoke a day after results showed democratic candidates secured almost 90% of 452 district council seats in Sunday’s elections, a landslide victory in polls that were widely seen as a barometer of the opposition to the Beijing-backed politician following months of unrest.

China, which has blamed foreign forces for fomenting unrest in the city, has not directly commented on the results, and major news outlets among China’s tightly controlled media largely avoided detailed reporting of how Hong Kongers voted.

Yesterday, top diplomat Yang Jiechi condemned the passing of US legislation supporting protesters, saying China had “expressed our severe position the American side,” according to state news agency Xinhua.

A day earlier, the foreign ministry summoned US Ambassador Terry Branstad to protest the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which it said amounted to interference in an internal Chinese matter.

Lam, Hong Kong’s most unpopular post-colonial leader, acknowledged voters in the city wanted to express their views on many issues, including “deficiencies in governance”.

Speaking in measured tones, she thanked residents for voting peacefully and hoped the calm weekend was not just for the elections but a signal that residents want an end to unrest that has rocked the Chinese-ruled city for six months.

“Everybody wants to go back to their normal life and this requires the concerted efforts of every one of us,” Lam said during her weekly address at the Government’s headquarters.

“So, as I have said repeatedly, resorting to violence will not give us that way forward. So please, please help us to maintain the relative calm and peace ... and provide a good basis for Hong Kong to move forward.”

The Asian financial centre has enjoyed a rare lull in violence for nearly a week, breaking from six months of often violent anti-government unrest that has plunged the city into its biggest political crisis in decades, creating the greatest internal challenge yet faced by China’s President Xi Jinping.