The pro-communist China leader of Hong Kong Carrie Lam fielded tough questions during a press conference Tuesday amid chaotic pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese region.
During the conference, a reporter told the embattled leader of Hong Kong, “You blame your own political misjudgment on others, and refuse to acknowledge your mistakes.”
According to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency, the journalist from Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK proceeded to ask, “When will you accept political responsibility to end citizens’ fear? … When will you be willing to step down? When will you tell the police to stop?”
Journalists shouted more questions as she began to answer. The barrage of questions continued as she abruptly abandoned the podium.
One reporter shouted, “Do you have a conscience?”
Another yelled, “Mrs. Lam, many citizens have been asking recently when you will die?”
The press conference is a testament to the tensions in Hong Kong following a weekend of violence that left dozens of protesters with injuries, some of them serious, AFP noted.
Lam, who appeared to be close to tears at one point, reportedly called for calm during her opening remarks, saying, “I again ask everyone to put aside your differences and calm down. Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss?”
The Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong defended the local police against accusations of excessive force during the weekend demonstrations. Hong Kong police officers fired tear gas into subway stations and on crowded streets.
Lam said she was “heartbroken” by reports of serious injuries. However, she reportedly offered no concessions to the protesters and insisted that law enforcement officers were facing “extremely difficult circumstances.”
Under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, reporters in Hong Kong enjoy quasi-democratic freedoms inconceivable in China. Hong Kong is officially considered a special administrative region of communist China.
A bill that would have allowed extraditions from Hong Kong to communist China triggered the demonstrations in June that continue to rage.
Some observers have pointed out that the focus of the protests has now fully shifted to the region’s desire for democracy and full autonomy. There are concerns that China will deploy its military to quell the unrest.
The U.S. Department of State is urging Beijing to allow Hong Kong to “exercise a high degree of autonomy.”
“We condemn violence and urge all sides to exercise restraint, but remain staunch in our support for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly in Hong Kong,” a spokesperson from State A spokesperson for State declared.
In the wake of police attacks on peaceful protesters, the pro-democracy movement has issued five demands for its government: a full withdrawal of the extradition law, freedom for imprisoned demonstrators, an independent investigation into police brutality, a government apology for calling the June 12 march a “riot,” and direct election of all Hong Kong lawmakers to avert another protest.