HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam acknowledged on Friday there were concerns over certain “individual incidents” in the city and it was her duty to accurately reflect them to the central government in Beijing.
Lam was speaking in her first interview with the international media since she was sworn in as the city’s new leader by Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 1.
“I would say there are worries, there are anxieties, there is a strong perception over individual isolated incidents, but unless you’ve got evidence to prove there are clear breaches then it will remain at the level of anxieties and perception,” Lam said, without elaborating.
Xi took what some saw as an explicitly harder line that Beijing would take towards Hong Kong in the coming years during his visit marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule.
Xi warned in a speech that any attempt to endanger Chinese sovereignty and security, challenge its power, or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities would be acts that cross “the red line” and are “absolutely impermissible”.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and enjoys wide-ranging freedoms not granted in mainland China and an independent judiciary under a so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement.
Hong Kong was also promised universal suffrage as an “ultimate aim” but Beijing has so far resisted granting a direct vote for a city leader with open nominations of candidates.
Over the past two decades, Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems arrangement” has come under considerable strain, as the city’s opposition forces have agitated for full democracy and railed against creeping Chinese interference in various sectors including business, politics, media, law and education.
The 60-year-old Lam, a devout Catholic, has said she hopes to lead Hong Kong “towards new glory” in the next five years and to heal unprecedented social divisions that have continued to fester since the massive 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests that blocked major roads in Hong Kong for 79 days.
Hong Kong public opinion poll (interactive) - A look at citizens' view on the future of the territory under China tmsnrt.rs/299O0cu
Hong Kong public opinion - A look at citizens' view on the future of the territory under China tmsnrt.rs/2tnzxjF
Additional reporting by Anne Marie Roantree and Venus Wu; Editing by Bill Tarrant