On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced at a press conference that she would “immediately” set up a platform to open up a dialogue between the city government and its citizens.
“I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to calm and turning away from violence,” Lam said on August 20.
During a Tuesday press conference, Wong Yik Mo, the vice-convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, the group which organized the peaceful mass rally that brought an estimated 1.7 million anti-extradition protesters to Victoria Park on Sunday, had a few words for Lam in response to her statements earlier that day.
“She’s fully aware that there’s no leader - this is a leaderless movement - so why does she still suggest such a platform? Because she knows very well there’s nothing she can do to deceive us anymore. She’s so obsessed with her old tricks,” Wong said of the chief executive. “We see this platform as a trap because Carrie Lam has a very bad track record. She has made numerous promises, and she’s never fulfilled any of them. We urge Carrie Lam to do something substantial instead of playing all these tricks.”
However, it’s possible Lam had in mind the protest figures who met with US diplomat Julie Eadeh earlier this month, prompting angry condemnations from Beijing.
This is very very embarrassing. Julie Eadeh, a US diplomat in Hong Kong, was caught meeting HK protest leaders. It would be hard to imagine the US reaction if Chinese diplomat were meeting leaders of Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter or Never Trump protesters. pic.twitter.com/JfiU2O2HZq— Chen Weihua (@chenweihua) August 8, 2019
Sputnik field reporter Bob Schlehuber, who spent the past several days in Hong Kong, joined Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary on Wednesday to discuss more about what he saw in the semi-autonomous city and provide his input on where things are headed following Lam’s call for talks.
“Whatever side you fall on, there is a heightened level of respectability amongst the people [in Hong Kong] that they are wanting to figure it out, and that people should have differing views and opinions, and that people should talk,” Schlehuber noted about his time in the city, adding that the “quality of culture” and “humanity” are overlooked in the West’s coverage of events taking place in Hong Kong.
Despite some protesters calling for Lam’s resignation and for the Hong Kong government to drop the charges leveled against more than 700 demonstrators, Schlehuber said he doubts officials will actually entertain those demands in the end.
Additionally, demonstrators hoping for an independent investigation into the Hong Kong Police Force’s alleged brutality in the past several weeks will likely be disappointed, as Lam has consistently insisted that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) will be carrying out the review. However, Asia Times reported Wednesday that the chief executive is open to adding more members to the IPCC.
The withdrawal of the extradition bill, which is only currently suspended, may end up being the sole point of negotiation that sees the light of day, according to Schlehuber.
“The extradition bill has served as a catalyst for the recent protests, but obviously it's a much deeper issue,” he asserted. “And then the other issue that hasn’t been talked about, that needs to continuously be amplified, is the class struggle.”
“You have 8% of the populace here in Hong Kong [that] are millionaires, but if you walk around, you do see quite a few blue collar workers; you see Filipino and Malaysian migrant workers in the city sitting outside on cardboard boxes, waiting for work to be given to them,” Schlehuber explained during a phone call into By Any Means Necessary on Monday.
Jimmy Sham, another member of the Civil Human Rights Front, said Tuesday that “if Lam wants dialogue, she should come to a protest.”
According to Asia Times, Lam is said to have a shaky history with fulfilling promises made the community. Back in 2014, Lam, who was then the city’s chief secretary, met with five students in 2014 for a so-called “dialogue” concerning the “Umbrella Revolution,” which came about in response to proposed reforms to Hong Kong’s electoral system.
"The dialogue cannot be deployed as an excuse to incite more people to join the protest," Lam said after calling off the talks in 2014, reported the BBC. The chief secretary also accused student leaders of "undermining trust" in the dialogue.
Asia Time reports that three of the student leaders were prosecuted after meeting with Lam.
Between the chief executive’s reputation and her outward dismissal of protester demands before they can even get to a platform for discussion, it’s unlikely Lam will be taken up on her invitation anytime soon.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.