Carrie Lam open to talks with anti-govt protesters in HK
Three people hurt in knife attack near a 'Lennon Wall' of pro-protest messages in city, man arrested
HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said yesterday she hoped a peaceful weekend anti-government protest was the start of efforts to restore calm, and that talks with non-violent protesters would provide "a way out" for the Chinese city.
Hundreds of thousands of people rallied peacefully in torrential rain on Sunday in the eleventh week of the protests.
"I sincerely hope this was the beginning of society returning to peace and staying away from violence," Mrs Lam said. "We will immediately start the work to establish a platform for dialogue. This dialogue, I hope, will be based on a mutual understanding and respect and find a way out for today's Hong Kong."
Anger erupted in June over a now suspended Bill that would allow criminal suspects in the former British colony to be extradited to mainland China.
The unrest has been fuelled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" formula put in place after Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, including an independent judiciary and right to protest.
Three people were wounded, one critically, in a knife attack by an unknown assailant near a "Lennon Wall" of pro-protest messages in the city, police said. A man was arrested.
More demonstrations have been planned, including by subway workers today, secondary school students on Thursday and accountants on Friday.
The protests are exacting a toll on the city's economy and tourism, with the Asian financial hub on the verge of its first recession in a decade.
Sunday's protest turnout, which organisers put at 1.7 million, showed the movement still has widespread support despite chaotic scenes last week when protesters occupied the airport.
Besides Mrs Lam's resignation, demonstrators have five demands - complete withdrawal of the extradition Bill, a halt to descriptions of the protests as "rioting", a waiver of charges against those arrested, an independent inquiry and resumption of political reform.
"The Bill is dead," Mrs Lam told yesterday's news briefing. "There is no plan to revive the Bill, especially in light of the public concerns."
Police have been criticised for increasingly aggressive tactics to break up protests, but there was a minimal police presence on Sunday and no arrests were made. More than 700 people have been arrested since June.
Mrs Lam said the police watchdog had set up a task force to investigate complaints.
She said: "The Hong Kong economy is facing the risk of downturn. We can see this from the data in the first half. Actually, I think the data in the first half has not fully reflected the seriousness of the problem." - REUTERS