Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam again refused calls for her resignation and lashed out at the immense protest movement on Monday, condemning participants as “radical elements” whose goal is to “foment revolution” against Communist China.
“Some radical elements have changed the nature of the protests: some defaced the national emblem, and others took down a national flag and threw it into the sea. They said they want to foment revolution, to ‘liberate’ Hong Kong,” Lam charged on Monday after a general strike brought the city to a virtual standstill.
Lam denounced the strike, and protesters interfering with Hong Kong’s railroad and airports, as “scorched earth” tactics.
“These actions far exceeded the original political demands. These unlawful actions challenge national sovereignty and threaten One Country, Two Systems, and will destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” said Lam, referring to Beijing’s policy of allowing limited autonomy to Hong Kong while insisting it is an indivisible part of China.
Lam pointed to a group that threw a Chinese flag into Victoria Harbor while chanting “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.” Some of the protesters involved in that action hoisted their own flags proclaiming “Hong Kong Independence.”
The flag incident enraged Beijing, which declared it a “public provocation against the dignity of the country.” Former Hong Kong chief executive C.Y. Leung on Sunday offered a million-dollar reward for information about the identity of the “insane person” who took down the flag.
Lam insisted protesters will not secure any further concessions from her government than those made already, including the effective suspension – but not permanent withdrawal – of the extradition bill that sparked the movement and a police investigation of complaints about excessive force used against demonstrators. The protesters are demanding a more thorough and independent investigation of the police.
Lam adopted the Chinese Communist party line that demonstrators do not truly understand the extradition bill and were essentially duped into rebelling against it by sinister agents who “smeared” the legislation. She allowed that her government could have done a better job of explaining the bill. This approach is likely to enrage the protesters further since they have always suspected the bill will be revived and forced upon them after the current furor dies down.
“This type of method – which some have described as ‘mutual destruction’ – will push Hong Kong onto a path of no return,” Lam said of the protest tactics. “Do we want to use the lives of seven million people and the future of Hong Kong as betting chips?”
Lam accused the striking protesters of damaging Hong Kong’s economy and making life difficult for “grassroots families” who “live paycheck to paycheck.”
Lam’s press conference on Monday was her first public appearance in two weeks. Asked about her absence, she described herself as a victim of “intimidation and bullying” from protesters and claimed she was asked to keep away from public events by organizers worried about security.
“Some radical internet users would storm the events they know I would be attending, be it open or closed door. Event organizers would not want me to go now as they would have to pay a huge sum for insurance. This is Hong Kong today where people resort to threats and bullying to achieve their goal,” she complained.
Surrounded by a group of stern-looking ministers, Lam said Hong Kong is becoming “unsafe and unstable” as protesters drag the city down a “path of no return.”
“When the well-being of 7 million people is facing huge challenges, this is no longer about my personal honor. My colleagues and I have the responsibility to stand fast to our positions,” she said when asked if she, or any of her top officials, would step down as the protesters demand.
The Chinese regime said it will announce “something new” for Hong Kong on Tuesday in a press conference to be held by its Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO).
“Hong Kong will not have the same strategic value to China if the chaos continues. If things come to that, even if the central government wants to save Hong Kong, there is not much it can do,” an unnamed official told the South China Morning Post, implying that the announcement will be something short of the much-feared military crackdown on demonstrators.
The HKMAO made the same point as Lam about a “small number of radicals” breaking away from the protest movement to conduct violent actions and foment revolution.