HK’s Lam to meet officials in Beijing amid protests

Carrie Lam has received backing of Chinese government throughout unrest. (Reuters pic)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s besieged leader heads to Beijing for meetings with senior Chinese officials seeking to end pro-democracy protests that have raged for more than six months.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam, whose administration has been fiercely criticised for its handling of the unrest, said she will depart for Beijing on Saturday for an annual visit.

Her trip comes shortly after an estimated 800,000 people took to the streets in a demonstration and follows a landslide victory by opposition pro-democracy parties over Lam and her pro-establishment allies in local elections.

“The purpose of the duty visit is to give a full account of what has happened in Hong Kong over the past year,” Lam said in a press briefing on Dec 10.

“Particularly what has happened in Hong Kong in the last six months.”

Protests have gripped Asia’s premier financial hub since June, when large crowds took to the streets to oppose a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

Although Lam’s government eventually withdrew the proposed law, the protesters’ demands have broadened to include universal suffrage and the setting up of an independent inquiry into police conduct during the increasing violent unrest.

Beijing talks

Throughout the chaos, China has steadfastly supported Lam, even as her popularity in the former British colony sunk to record lows.

Chinese officials have condemned the protesters and voiced their backing for the city’s police.

Lam’s conversations in Beijing will also focus on how Hong Kong and the central government can cooperate on national-level plans including China’s global Belt and Road infrastructure strategy and integrating the city into a so-called Greater Bay Area with nearby mainland cities, she said.