Violence in Hong Kong’s protests is becoming more serious, but the government is confident that it can handle the crisis itself, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said yesterday.
Lam was speaking in public for the first time since demonstrations escalated on Sunday, when police fired water cannons and volleys of tear gas in running battles with protesters who threw bricks and gasoline bombs.
The territory is grappling with its biggest political crisis since its handover to Beijing in 1997 and Chinese Communist Party authorities have sent a clear warning that forceful intervention is possible to quell the violence.
Hong Kong’s leader said that she would not give up on building a platform for dialogue, although the time was not right to set up an independent inquiry into the crisis, one of the cornerstone demands of protesters.
“We should prepare for reconciliation in society by communicating with different people... We want to put an end to the chaotic situation in Hong Kong,” Lam said, adding that she did not believe her government had lost control.
More demonstrations are planned over the coming days and weeks, posing a direct challenge to authorities in Beijing, who are eager to quell the unrest ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1.
The demonstrations have evolved over 12 straight weeks into a broad demand for greater democracy under the “one country, two systems” formula.
Authorities have so far refused to meet any of the protesters’ five key demands: withdraw the extradition bill, set up an independent inquiry into the protests and perceived police brutality, stop describing the protests as “rioting,” waive charges against those arrested, and resume political reform.
The government on Monday said that illegal violence was pushing Hong Kong to the brink of great danger
The protests come as Hong Kong is facing its first recession in a decade, with all its growth pillars under significant stress.
Rating agencies have raised long-term questions over the quality of the territory’s governance.
The unrest has sent jitters across the Asian financial center, prompting some Hong Kong tycoons to start moving personal wealth offshore and residents to look for homes elsewhere.
Jamie Mi, partner at Kay and Burton in Melbourne, said that the real-estate agency was receiving about one-third more enquiries from Hong Kong buyers than usual, with most buyers targeting high-end properties priced above A$5 million (US$3.38 million).
Juwai.com, China’s largest property Web site, saw a 50 percent rise in Hong Kong enquiries for Australian properties in the past quarter.
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