Chief Executive Carrie Lam met with moderate young protesters – what’s next in dialogue process?

Gary Cheung

Most of the young people who on Monday spoke with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in a landmark dialogue session had taken part in anti-government marches, organisers of the meeting have told the Post.

Government officials stuck to its plan to meet first with moderate young protesters before reaching out to more vocal and radical activists, a source familiar with plans to start a citywide dialogue platform said on Tuesday.

Several leaders of the youth groups who organised the Monday meeting said they were open to similar events to allow senior government officials more opportunities to exchange ideas with young protesters.

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The youth group’s involved included the Outstanding Young Persons’ Association, the Hong Kong Playground Associations and the Junior Chamber International Hong Kong.

The ongoing political crisis can’t be resolved simply by suppression

Edward Leung, executive director of the Hong Kong Playground Associations

“We discussed the idea late last week and government officials were interested in such an arrangement,” said Dr Eugene Chan Kin-keung, vice-chairman of the Outstanding Young Persons’ Association.

The Post was told that at least one well-established youth group withdrew from the initiative after discussions started.

Lam on Monday afternoon held a closed-door meeting with about 20 protesters, most of whom were in their 20s and 30s. She was accompanied by Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung and Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah.

Chen Lin, director general of the youth department of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, also attended the meeting.

The three youth groups said they invited young people from various backgrounds to attend the meeting.

Edward Leung Wai-kuen, executive director of the Hong Kong Playground Associations, said the government expressed a desire to speak directly with young people who had taken part in protest marches, including rallies against the now-shelved extradition bill.

Protesters in Kowloon Bay on August 24 as a standoff in a working-class district descended into violence. Photo: AFP

“The ongoing political crisis can’t be resolved simply by suppression,” Leung said. It’s good that the government is willing to understand the views of young people.”

Casper Wong Chun-long, the deputy chairman of centrist group Third Side who attended the meeting with Lam, said he joined the marches in June but he disagreed with the violent protests that had shocked the city in recent weeks.

Since June, Hong Kong has been rocked by anti-government by protests sparked by an unpopular government bill that would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China another jurisdictions.

In the weeks that followed, protesters settled on five main demands, including the formal withdrawal of the bill and an independent inquiry into the actions of police.

Lam last week again rejected the protesters’ top demands, but offered to create the platform for dialogue.

“It is not a question of not responding, it is a question of not accepting those demands,” Lam said on Tuesday before meeting her Executive Council.

She said the outbreak of violence and radical tactics made it inappropriate for the government to accommodate the protesters’ demands.

A protester paints graffiti during an march in Kwun Tong on August 24. The protests have evolved into an anti-government movement. Photo: EPA

“The government should take smaller steps, such as withdrawing the bill first and launching an independent inquiry,” Wong said. “Protesters should give the government some room by not insisting that the government meet all their demands.”

The source familiar with the dialogue plan agreed the government should meet certain demands – like launching an independent inquiry – to help jump-start the dialogue process.

On Monday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the government had studied the French government’s response to “yellow vest” protests. The protestsbegan in November to oppose fuel tax increases.

“It’s not enough for the government to draw references from the form, but not the substance, of other countries’ experience in handling political crisis,” the source said.

President Emmanuel Macron launched a two-month consultation that included holding 10,000 town hall meetings across France.

“Macron launched the nationwide dialogue after withdrawing the fuel-tax hikes. It would be very difficult for the dialogue in Hong Kong to bear fruit if the government refuses to meet any of protesters’ demands,” the source said.

This article Chief Executive Carrie Lam met with moderate young protesters – what’s next in dialogue process? first appeared on South China Morning Post

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