Hong Kong’s embattled leader has said she will not tolerate lawlessness, after the city’s richest man called on authorities to show humanity to young people involved in the months of recent anti-government protests.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hit out at “rioters” who caused “crazy” damage at railway stations over the weekend, saying they needed to end those tactics so the city could move on and restore order.
Speaking to a private audience about the unrest on Sunday, tycoon Li Ka-shing said justice might have to be tempered with mercy on political issues.
“For those at the helm, we hope they can give the masters of our future a way out ... Although [showing] humanity may sometimes collide with the rule of law, in political issues, both sides should try to put their feet in each other’s shoes,” the 91-year-old billionaire said.
Asked to comment on Li’s remarks before her weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Lam said the government had started rolling out policies for young Hongkongers.
“I would not comment on individuals’ comments, but ... this term of government has rolled out different policies [to help them with] their study, career and entrepreneurship, and give them more opportunity to take part in our policymaking,” she said.
“I agree that we can do more and do better, and the most important means is to have direct dialogue with young people, and to listen to their views.”
But she made it clear all criminality would be dealt with in accordance with the law.
Crazy damage to MTR stations ... and an escalation of violence will not solve society’s problems
Chief Executive Carrie Lam
“The rule of law is an important core value of Hong Kong. The government would not endorse or support any act that goes against the rule of law,” she said.
On Monday, senior officials from rail operator the MTR Corporation gave Lam and transport chief Frank Chan Fan a first-hand look at the damage and repair work, a day after radicals wreaked havoc at Central station.
Lam said on Tuesday: “Crazy damage to MTR stations ... and an escalation of violence will not solve society’s problems.
“These only worsen the conflicts, confrontations and division in the city, and make it more difficult for us to restore order and mend rifts.”
The city has been gripped since June 9 by protests which stemmed from anger over an extradition bill but which have since grown into a wider anti-government movement. Marches, rallies and occupations have many times led to clashes between residents and police, who have used tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds. More than 1,000 people have been arrested.
One member of Lam’s Executive Council had a day earlier been forced to defend her claim that young girls were offering sex to frontline demonstrators. Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun told a radio show she could confirm a story of a schoolgirl tasked with providing “comfort” to the protesters, who later became pregnant.
Lam on Tuesday distanced herself from Law’s assertion, saying: “Those comments are representing her own personal views.”
The chief executive said people should handle rumours and speculation carefully.
“Every one of us, including government officials … have to be extremely cautious in ascertaining whether it is accurate,” Lam said.
If people suspect people have broken the law, they should tell police, she added.
More from South China Morning Post:
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