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Hong Kong leader refuses to offer concessions as China State media bemoans election 'dirty tricks'

Carrie Lam vowed to “engage the people” but stopped short of offering concessions to anti-government protesters.

Image: Vincent Yu AP/PA Images

HONG KONG’S EMBATTLED leader Carrie Lam refused to offer concessions to anti-government protesters despite a local election setback, saying she would instead accelerate dialogues and identify ways to address societal grievances.

Lam said the central government in Beijing didn’t blame her for the election outcome.

Nearly three million voters cast their ballot in a record turnout that gave the pro-democracy bloc a landslide victory, with 90% of seats and control of 17 out of 18 district councils.

While a relatively low-key election on face value, the poll was viewed as a barometer for public support for more than five months of pro-democracy protests.

Lam said Sunday’s election may have reflected unhappiness with the government handling of the unrest but that it also showed many people wanted a stop to violence.

In early September, when she withdrew an extradition bill that sparked the unrest, Lam said she had also given a detailed response to protesters’ other demands including free elections for the city’s leader and legislature, as well as a probe into alleged police brutality.

She said the government hoped to take advantage of the current lull in violence to implement measures listed including accelerating public dialogue and setting up an independent review committee to identify deep-seated societal issues to find a way out.

“The next step to go forward is really … to engage the people. And we have started public dialogue with the community,” she said.

“But unfortunately, with the unstable environment and a chaotic situation, I could not do more on that sort of engagement. I hope that the environment will allow me to do it now.”

Meanwhile, Chinese State media has sought to downplay and discredit the results of the election.

The election winners were not mentioned in Chinese-language state media today, including official broadcaster CCTV and Communist Party publication the People’s Daily.

The People’s Daily said “social unrest… has seriously disrupted the electoral process.”

An editorial in the English-language version of China Daily said the poll was “skewed by intimidation” and “dirty tricks”.

The editorial said “violent intimidation tactics were intended to reduce the exposure and visibility of pro-establishment candidates”.

“External forces that have helped stoke the months-long anti-government campaign in the special administrative region also contributed greatly to damaging the election chances of pro-establishment candidates,” it said.

A commentary in English on official news agency Xinhua said that the election “fell victim” to “rioters”.

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“Campaigns of some patriotic candidates were seriously disrupted, and their offices were trashed and set ablaze,” it said today.

“One candidate was injured in an attack. Harassment on patriotic candidates occurred on the voting day.”

The commentary went on to give its support to city leader Carrie Lam, and said the “Hong Kong community should also correctly understand the relationship between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland”.

With reporting from AFP

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