Govt won't concede to protesters' other demands: Bernard Chan

September 19, 2019 12:48
Executive Council convenor Bernard Chan said the government believes granting the protesters' other demands will not end the current unrest. Photo: Bloomberg

A key adviser of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government will not agree to the remaining demands of protesters as doing so will not help end the current social unrest.

Bernard Charnwut Chan, convenor of the Executive Council, told Bloomberg in an interview that the government sees no benefit in “conceding to more demands from protesters and the increasingly violent demonstrations are unlikely to stop anytime soon”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

On Sept. 4, Lam announced the formal withdrawal of an extradition bill that has pushed Hong Kong into its worst crisis since the 1997 handover, meeting only one of the public's five demands.

The protesters also want the government to drop all charges against them, retract its categorization of clashes as “riots”, set up an independent commission of inquiry into recent violent incidents, and implement "genuine universal suffrage" for the election of the chief executive and members of the Legislative Council.

So despite the withdrawal of the bill, protests have shown no signs of abating. The protesters' message: “Five demands, not one less”.

Chan said more moderate protesters may be swayed by government moves to address social inequality, but it is unlikely for their die-hard peers to give up.

Radical demonstrators won’t give up their struggle even if the government meets all of their demands, he said.

“No one is foolish enough to think that the more violent, more radicalized ones will dissipate anytime soon – I’m afraid that this might drag on for a while,” Chan told Bloomberg in the interview.

"The five demands may be just the outset. The underlying issues are about all the other social issues we’re facing in Hong Kong.”

Talking about the four demands, Chan said amnesty for those charged with crimes was a “no go” as doing so would violate Hong Kong’s rule of law.

As for launching a formal inquiry, Chan said it “would take too long, possibly years”, adding that it “wouldn’t do anything to solve the immediate crisis”.

“It sounds good, it might be a good diversion, but it’s not solving the problem,” he added.

According to Chan, the Lam administration sees “social inequality” as “the root cause of the protests” and “is intent on addressing” it, in spite of many protesters insisting their real grievance is the city’s lack of true democracy.

He said he hoped that the chief executive's efforts to engage in dialogue with citizens, with the first session to be held next week, will help end the protests, although he said the fact that the protest movement is leaderless has complicated the process.

Chan also denied that Lam is hiding from the public. “She’s been seeing people every day since June, but funnily enough, many would prefer not to be seen meeting her,” he said.

Commenting on Chan’s remarks, Civic Party leader and lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said the Executive Council convenor only managed to set the wrong tone for the dialogue.

Yeung said Chan's remarks indicate that the government is not sincere at all about listening to the people.

Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front which organized several massive marches against the now-withdrawn extradition bill in the past three months, said while the government believes that any more concessions would not help ease the ongoing protests, most of the citizens hope the government can meet all of their demands.

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