China reaffirmed its support for Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam after days of mass protests in the territory against a planned extradition bill.
“The central government has always fully affirmed the work of chief executive Carrie Lam and the Hong Kong government,” a foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday in Beijing, Reuters reports.
Beijing “will continue to firmly support the chief executive and the SAR government’s governing in accordance with the law,” the spokesman was quoted as saying, referring to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The remarks came after Lam’s attempts to pass a bill that would allow people in Hong Kong to be extradited to China for trial triggered the biggest and most violent protests in decades in the city.
Hong Kong authorities said late on Monday that 32 people had been arrested since June 12, when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.
On Sunday, almost 2 million people took to the streets to demand that Lam resign, even though she announced the previous day that she was putting off the proposed legislation indefinitely.
The mass rally forced Lam to apologize for planning to push the bill through.
On Monday, protesters near the government’s offices blocked roads and urged Lam to withdraw the bill for good, release arrested students, drop the official description of a rally on Wednesday that involved clashes with the police as a riot, and step down.
A senior Hong Kong official close to Lam told Reuters that Beijing is not likely to let her do so, even if she wants to, saying “it would create more problems than it solves, at all sorts of levels”.
Lam stopped short of explicitly killing the bill, but the official said the postponement means it was effectively dead.
Still, many in Hong Kong are unhappy to have faced the prospect of legislation that lawyers and judges say risks exposing people to the mercy of a mainland justice system plagued by torture, forced confessions and arbitrary detention.
The Hong Kong upheaval comes at a delicate time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is grappling with a deepening US trade war and slowing economic growth, Reuters noted.
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