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Hong Kong leader assures investors of rebound despite no let-up in protests

More protests are planned this weekend

AP | PTI  |  Hong Kong 

A protestor uses a shield to cover himself as he faces policemen in Hong Kong. Protesters and police are standing off in Hong Kong on a street that runs through the bustling Causeway Bay shopping district. Photo: AP/PTI
A protestor uses a shield to cover himself as he faces policemen in Hong Kong. Protesters and police are standing off in Hong Kong on a street that runs through the bustling Causeway Bay shopping district. Photo: AP/PTI

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam reassured foreign investors Wednesday that the Asian financial hub can rebound from months of protests, despite no sign that the unrest will subside. 

Lam told a forum on China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative that Hong Kong is grappling with the double whammy of the prolonged US-Chinese trade war and the unrest involving mostly young demonstrators seeking democratic reforms.

Her promise last week to formally withdraw the extradition bill that sparked demonstrations since June failed to mollify protesters, whose demands have expanded to include direct elections for the city's leaders and police accountability. The unrest has become increasingly violent and threatens the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's reputation as a global financial hub.

Lam voiced confidence that rifts can be mended through government plans for dialogue and upholding the "one country, two systems" principle that gives Hong Kong some freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
 

"We can find a way back to reasoned discussion, to social stability...after all, Hong Kong has been built and rebuild time and again on our indomitable resilience. Call it the spirit of Hong Kong and know that it will see us through," she told the forum.

The protesters insist it is the Beijing-backed Hong Kong government that is undermining the "one country, two systems" principle. Chinese officials at the forum urged a quick end to the violence.

Xie Feng, Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry in Hong Kong, repeated Beijing's rhetoric that foreign "black hands" were behind the "extremist forces" that were challenging Chinese sovereignty.

"Foreign forces have intervened, distorting the truth, and trying to protect those in the wrong and let them get away with it. With this continuous intervention of black hands, violence cannot stop and the rule of law cannot be upheld," he warned.

Xia said deeper integration with mainland China through Belt and Road projects is the way forward for Hong Kong's development.

More protests are planned this weekend. Bonnie Leung of the Civil Human Rights Front said it is waiting for police approval for a march Sunday from the Causeway Bay shopping district to central Hong Kong. Police banned the group's Aug 31 march but protesters turned up anyway.
 

Violent clashes erupted that night, with police storming a subway car and hitting passengers with batons and pepper spray.

The government has slammed radical protesters, but Leung said they were not out to hurt people but to "send symbolic messages" after peaceful rallies failed to move the government.

"Radical protesters, who we call braves, and peaceful protesters are fighting for the same goals. We want our freedom and rights for universal suffrage to be protected," she said.   

First Published: Wed, September 11 2019. 13:15 IST
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