Address protest demands, AmCham tells HK leaders

FINANCIAL CENTER::The group urged the leaders to take tangible action to address the root causes of the demonstrations and restore public confidence

AFP, HONG KONG

Tue, Jul 30, 2019 - Page 5

Hong Kong’s leaders must address the grievances fueling nearly two months of protests, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) said yesterday, as the business community becomes increasingly alarmed by the chaos engulfing the financial hub.

The once stable territory is reeling from weeks of protests against the government that show no sign of abating.

What began as a mass display of opposition to an extradition bill in March has morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that has thrown down the most significant challenge to Beijing’s authority since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Moreover, there is growing frustration over the seeming inability — or unwillingness — of Beijing and the territory’s leaders to offer compromises or a solution that might end the political crisis.

AmCham said “a clear majority” of its members felt Hong Kong’s leaders needed to do more to address core protester demands, including an independent inquiry into the unrest and a permanent withdrawal of the extradition bill.

“The government should take immediate and tangible actions to address the root causes of recent demonstrations and restore confidence in the city’s status as Asia’s pre-eminent international business and financial centre,” it said in a statement.

AmCham president Tara Joseph said the administration of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) needed to “show clear leadership in meeting the expectations of Hong Kong people and in restoring the city’s international reputation for effective governance.”

“A clear majority of our membership surveyed over the past week said the government needs to address the underlying causes of the protests and not simply to paper over the cracks of social instability with a short-term law-and-order fix,” she added.

The statement follows a similar rebuke last week from the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, which also called for a permanent shelving of the extradition bill and an inquiry.

Lam has faced growing criticism over her response to the crisis, both from opponents, but also within the civil service and the territory’s pro-Beijing establishment ranks.

Beyond agreeing to postpone the widely loathed extradition bill, she has made few compromises.

She has also made few public appearances in recent weeks, despite the unprecedented scenes of violence. Over the weekend she was pictured visiting a Chinese army barracks in the territory.

Beijing has backed Lam and issued increasingly shrill condemnations, dismissing protester grievances and portraying the rallies as a foreign-funded conspiracy.