HK leader to hold dialogue aimed at easing tensions
HONG KONG, Sept 17: Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, said on Tuesday she and her team would begin dialogue sessions with the community next week, while reiterating that violence that has roiled the city over three months of protests must end.
Lam, who is under pressure from Beijing to defuse the public anger stirring the protests, said the dialogue sessions would be as open as possible, with members of the public able to sign up to attend.
"Hong Kong society has really accumulated a lot of deep rooted economic, social and even political issues, I hope these different forms of dialogue can provide a platform for us to discuss," Lam told reporters at a weekly briefing.
She said the issues included housing and land shortages in one of the world's most densely populated cities of 7.4 million. Young people are particularly frustrated by the high cost of finding a place of their own to live.
"But I have to stress here, dialogue platform doesn't mean we don't have to take resolute enforcement actions. Suppressing the violence in front of us is still the priority," she said.
The former British colony has been roiled by nearly four months of sometimes violent protests.
The trigger for the unrest was an extradition bill, now withdrawn, that would have allowed people to be sent from Hong Kong to mainland China for trial. But the demonstrators' demands have broadened to include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into their complaints of excessive force by the police.
Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland - including a much-cherished independent legal system.
But many residents complain about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in Hong Kong's affairs despite the promise of autonomy. -REUTERS